2 high rollers in cyberheist in China
Two Chinese high rollers accused by casino junket operator Kim Wong of being the ones who brought to the Philippines $81 million stolen from Bangladesh’s central bank are now back in China, according to Sen. Serge Osmeña.
Osmeña said getting Beijing’s cooperation to track down the pair may be a problem because of the strain in their relations caused by a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
The Senate blue ribbon committee, which is looking into the bank heist, has received a preliminary report that Gao Shuhua and Ding Zhize were no longer in the Philippines and had returned to China, according to the senator.
Speaking on radio on Saturday, Osmeña said the committee had been seeking cooperation from police agencies to track down Gao and Ding, who Wong claimed had brought in the $81 million stolen by hackers from the account of the Bangladesh central bank in the US Federal Bank of New York and wired to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) on Feb. 5.
Wong told the blue ribbon committee on Tuesday that it was Gao, a close friend based in Beijing, who introduced him last year to Ding, a Macau investor.
Wong said he helped Gao opened last year the RCBC bank accounts that received the stolen funds and from which foreign exchange firm Philrem Service Corp. remitted the money to certain people and two casinos.
“We don’t know if the government of China will cooperate. This may become a problem. We don’t have nice relations with China at this time,” Osmeña said.
Manila and Beijing’s ties continue to be icy, especially now that the United Nations arbitration tribunal is set to decide anytime soon on the Philippines’ case against Chinese occupation of reefs, islets and shoal within its exclusive economic zone.
China is not taking part in the UN proceedings as it questions its jurisdiction over the maritime dispute.
The Senate blue ribbon committee has so far conducted three hearings to get to the bottom of the laundering of the stolen Bangladeshi funds through RCBC and Midas and Solaire casinos.
Wong last week returned $4.63 million of the stolen money in his possession. According to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, authorities could recover $34 million of the $81 million if they moved swiftly.
4th hearing tomorrow
In the same radio interview, Osmeña said the resumption of the Senate hearing on Tuesday would see senators seeking an explanation from Philrem owners Salud and Michael Bautista of Wong’s testimony that they had not remitted $17 million of the stolen money to the two Chinese high rollers.
The Bautistas last week denied Wong’s claims.
Osmeña said the role of remittance companies in the heist had not yet been tackled by the committee.
Asked whether he found it suspicious that the Bautista couple omitted mentioning Wong’s involvement in the remittance of the stolen money in the first two hearings, the senator acknowledged that there were many gaps and discrepancies that needed to be clarified in the testimonies of some of the resource persons.
“Not everybody is telling the whole truth. They only say what is favorable to them,” he said.
Osmeña also said that whatever findings the committee would produce, it would submit these for investigation to the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation.
So far, he said the committee had gathered only 30 percent of information it needed and that it would submit recommendations once it gathered 60-70 percent of the needed information.
Commenting on Wong’s return of some of the stolen money, Osmeña said it was a good gesture.
He expressed hope that the authorities’ efforts to have the stolen money returned to Bangladesh would help salvage the country’s reputation, noting that the “biggest cyberheist in history” has placed the Philippines as the money-laundering center in the world.
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