Philippines seek money laundering charges against two gaming industry figures

TAGs: Philippines

philippines-bank-heistPhilippine authorities have requested that money laundering charges be filed against two local casino industry figures in connection with the millions heisted from Bangladeshi central bank accounts last month.

On Tuesday, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) filed criminal complaints with the Department of Justice against Kam Sin Wong aka Kim Wong, the president and GM of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co Ltd, which operates a casino in the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.

The AMLC is also seeking charges against Weikang Xu, an ethnic Chinese junket operator who may or may not be a Philippine passport holder. Xu is accused of receiving $30.5m of the $81m that was improperly transferred from Federal Reserve Bank accounts in New York to a Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch in the Philippines.

Wong stands accused of withdrawing around $21.6m of the transferred funds from his personal and corporate accounts. Wong’s attorney Victor Fernandez issued a statement saying his client returned to the Philippines from Singapore on Sunday and is ready to testify before the Senate panel conducting an inquiry into the international scandal.

Fernandez criticized the “premature’ timing of the AMLC’s filing, suggesting that “some very powerful people are afraid of what our client will disclose” to the Senate. Fernandez said the charges wouldn’t deter Wong from testifying.

Other charges will reportedly be filed next week against RCBC manager Maia Santos-Deguito, who has been fired by RCBC over her role in approving the withdrawals despite a stop-payment order issued by the New York bank. Also getting the sack was assistant branch manager Angela Torres. Both execs were dismissed for “violating bank policies and procedures and falsification of commercial documents.”

Wong reportedly asked Deguito to open the accounts into which the purloined funds were transferred (the names on the accounts were later found to be fictitious). Wong also reportedly instructed the bank exec to process the withdrawals via foreign exchange remittance firm Philrem Services Inc.

Last week, an RCBC exec testified that Deguito had told him she’d authorized the transfers because she and her family had been threatened by unidentified parties. Deguito denied this claim at the Senate hearing but reportedly modified her story in a subsequent closed-door session with senators.

Meanwhile, a preliminary investigation by cyber security firm FireEye Inc. has determined that the hackers who made off with the Bangladeshi bank’s millions had introduced malware – including keylogger software – into the bank’s server that allowed them to gain the necessary credentials to convince the Federal Reserve Bank that the transfer requests were authentic.

According to the Wall Street Journal, FireEye believes the criminals gained access to and monitored activity at up to 32 Bangladeshi bank computers, which allowed them to compose messages that appeared genuine to Federal Reserve officials.

How the malware was introduced into the system remains unknown, and FireEye warned that the malware could still be present in the Bangladeshi local network. A spokesperson for the Brussels-based SWIFT cooperative that connects 3k global financial institutions stressed that “the SWIFT network itself was not breached” but urged customers to “reinforce their local operating environments.”


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