Philippine watchdog preps civil forfeiture cases to recover heist loot

Philippine watchdog preps civil forfeiture cases to recover heist loot

Philippine dirty money watchdog Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is stepping up its hunt to recover the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh in February.

Philippine watchdog preps civil forfeiture cases to recover heist lootJulia Bacay-Abad, executive director of the state watchdog, told Manila-based reporters that their financial intelligence unit is readying the next step in its Bangladeshi loot recoup effort: filing civil forfeiture cases against remittance firm PhilRem Service Corp. as well as assets owned by the junket players at the casino which ended up with the money.

BusinessWorld quoted Bacay-Abad, who said that the investigation involves properties that can be subjected to forfeiture.

“As far as the criminal cases are concerned, we have filed the cases,” Bacay-Abad said, according to the news outlet.

If you recall, alleged Chinese hackers stole in February $101 million from Bangladeshi bank accounts in New York, of which $81 million 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 From there, the money was withdrawn through remittance firm Philrem Services Inc. and then funneled through the local casino industry by two Chinese junket operators. It was found during the Senate hearings that PhilRem transferred about $29 million to Solaire, which converted the money into chips to be used at the gaming tables.

So far, an estimated $15 million, which was turned over by junket operator Kam Sin Wong to the AMLC, has already been returned to Bangladesh. Last week, a high-level team from Dhaka visited Manila to follow up on the efforts to recover the some $66 million more, according to the news outlet.

Bacay-Abad said the AMLC will file a separate forfeiture case against Wong to recover the rest of the Bangladeshi heist-linked funds that his casino company, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd., which the watchdog said totaled $21 million.

The AMLC has already filed money-laundering charges against select RCBC officials, former branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, PhilRem executives, Mr. Wong, junket operator Weikang Xu and the four RCBC account holders, according to the news outlet.