A Philippine senator is urging the country’s president to allow the country’s gaming regulator to return some of the money stolen from the Bangladeshi central bank.
Earlier this week, Eugene Manalastas, president of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), told a Senate hearing that the regulator was willing to return the share of casino revenue it earned from gaming activity involving the stolen Bangladeshi millions.
If you’re just joining us, February saw (allegedly Chinese) hackers steal $101m from Bangladeshi bank accounts in New York, of which $81m was transferred to a Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch in Manila. From there, the money was withdrawn through remittance firm Philrem Services Inc and then funneled through the local casino industry by two Chinese junket operators.
To date, only $5.5m of the cash has been recovered from a different junket operator, Kam Sin ‘Kim’ Wong, although Wong has promised to produce a further $9.7m within two weeks. Wong claims another $17m in still in Philrem’s hands, a claim the remittance firm’s execs have rejected. RCBC’s embattled CEO suggested this week that his firm would honor at least some of the outstanding debt to Bangladesh.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Manalastas said PAGCOR had given the Solaire Resort and Casino and the Midas Hotel and Casino 10 days in which to calculate and remit the portion of the stolen funds that remained in casino accounts after the digital heist was exposed. Solaire has said there is around $2.3m left in its frozen accounts.
Under questioning by Sen. Ralph Recto, Manalastas said PAGCOR was willing to return any income the regulator had earned from casino activity involving the stolen funds. As PAGCOR operates under the supervision of the president’s office, Manalastas said PAGCOR would seek a directive from President Aquino to determine “if we can return” whatever ill-gotten earnings it has in its possession to Bangladesh.
Manalastas said it was difficult to ascertain how much the regulator had earned because the casino funds were “intermingled.” However, Manalastas suggested PAGCOR could have earned “approximately P48m” (US $1m) in tax revenue from one of the junket operators during the month of February.
Regardless of how much money is eventually returned, the Bangladeshi government hasn’t ruled out pressing charges against certain figures involved in this brouhaha after the Philippine senate concludes its investigation of the matter.
John Gomes, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Manila, told the Manila Times that his government’s current focus was on tracking down the missing millions but was considering hiring a local lawyer to weigh its options for legal retribution.