Filipino trader turns over $4.6m
Filipino businessman Kim Wong, who is tagged in the $81 million cyber heist, yesterday turned over $4.63m to the Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Council for safekeeping with the country's central bank.
The handover has brightened Bangladesh's chance to recover the $81 million that hackers stole from Bangladesh Bank's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February.
“Early this morning, 48 hours after the adjournment of the Senate hearing, Kim Wong asked me to visit AMLC and BSP [the Filipino central bank] in order to inform AMLC that we are officially turning over $4.63 million mentioned by Kim Wong at the hearing,” Inocencio Ferrer, legal counsel for Kim Wong, told reporters yesterday.
“We completed the turnover, including counting and verification of bills,” the Inquirer quoted Ferrer as saying.
Ferrer said it took them three hours to count the huge sum of money in denominations of $100 using “many” counting machines akin to those used in bank.
AMLC's office is located within the Filipino central bank.
The “receipt of funds for safekeeping” was signed by AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes and AMLC Member Emmanuel F Dooc.
“The stature of the Philippines in the world community is restored today; even without the [intervention of] courts part of the funds was returned,” Ferrer said.
The money will be held for safekeeping by AMLC at the BSP vault, according to the Southeast Asian country's banking regulator.
Wong, a casino junket operator, received the funds from two Chinese nationals linked to stolen funds.
The BB has already got back $20 million of the $101 million that were stolen on February 4 from Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the Senate of the Philippines said if the Filipino authorities only acted swiftly, they might still recover more than 40 percent, about $34-million, of the $81 million.
The possibility of recovering the loot, according to Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, loomed after the Senate discovered that not all the $81 million was laundered through the Philippines casinos.
"While the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is solving this great puzzle, our law enforcement agencies must act swiftly to recover any portion of the loot that is still within Philippine soil," Recto said in an interview with local media, which was posted on the website of the Senate on Wednesday.
"There is a chance that we can recover $34 million if local authorities will zero in on the paper trail established during the Senate hearings," he added.
Under intense grilling from Recto, casino junket operator Wong admitted on Tuesday that about $61 million of the $81 million cyber heist loot found its way to the Philippines casinos.
About $17 million, Wong said, are still with Philrem Corp., the remittance firm responsible for transferring the stolen money from Rizal Banking Commercial Corporation to different accounts and individuals.
Wong told Recto and other senators that he is ready to surrender to Philippine authorities 450 million peso or about $10 million that his firm, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd., received as part of the heist.
Wong admitted that a total of 1 billion peso ($21.78 million) went to his firm, but 550 million peso or $11.98 million of the amount was given to casino players who already lost the money to games.
Wong also announced during the last Senate hearing that he is willing to return even the total amount of 1 billion peso if Philippine authorities will request him to do so.
Aside from the $17 million allegedly with Philrem and the $10 million with Wong, Recto noted that almost $7 million of the stolen money had been traced and may be recovered from casino accounts.