Logo
12th-Apr-2016

Wong for quick return of BB fund as per law

By Agency

Kim Wong - one of the central figures in the $81-million money laundering scandal - has questioned the move of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to directly turn over to the Bangladeshi government the funds he had surrendered as a casino junket operator, saying that any turnover should be done in accordance with Philippine laws.In a letter to Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Teofisto Guingona III, Wong's lawyers, Inocencio Ferrer Jr. and Kristoffer James Purisima, called AMLC's stand "fundamentally erroneous, procedurally infirm and grossly contrary to law." AMLC originally wanted Wong to issue a waiver and directly return to Bangladesh $4.63 million and P38.28 million that he turned over to the agency for safekeeping. But upon prodding by Guingona and Juan Ponce Enrile last week, AMLC changed its tune and decided to follow its own rules.Wong has said that he has no objections to returning the money to its rightful owners, but said that - upon the advise of his counsels - any turnover should be in accordance with Philippine laws.Wong, owner of the Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Limited, earlier said the funds were abandoned by his junket agent Gao Shuhua at Solaire Resort and Casino and Midas Casinos where the stolen money from the Bangladeshi government was supposedly funnelled. The money forms part of the $81-million stash, which was allegedly stolen by cyber thieves and found its way to four accounts in Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation's Jupiter branch, and later transferred by money remittance firm Philrem Services Corp. to various casinos and junket operators. Citing Section 12 and 17 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), Wong's lawyers said that "before any money or property can be turned-over and/or delivered to its rightful owner, AMLC should file before a court… a verified ex parte petition for forfeiture." Specifically, the law requires the filing of an action for civil forfeiture in accordance with the Rules of Court. "Thus, to allow the direct turnover of said funds to the People's Republic of Bangladesh without judicial intervention would be a direct violation of the provisions of said law," the lawyers stressed.Meanwhile, the World Bank has said Philippines must make sure casinos are covered by anti-money laundering legislation on Monday it joined calls for the government to better regulate its gambling industry after stolen millions from Bangladesh found their way to Manila.A Philippine panel is trying to fathom how $81 million hacked in February from the New York Federal Reserve account of Bangladesh's central bank wound up with two casinos and a junket operator in the Philippines in one of the biggest cyber heists in history. The government has since recovered part of the stolen money."Reforms should be made, for instance, in making sure that casinos are included (in the anti-money laundering law)," World Bank lead economist Rogier van den Brink told reporters in Manila. "...Loopholes must be closed." The enactment of the anti-money laundering law in 2001 was a good start, van den Brink said, but the Philippines must "keep reforming it so that you are sure these untoward effects will not materialise".In February 2013, the Philippines was up against a deadline to amend its Anti-Money Laundering Act and get itself off the "grey list" of a global watchdog, and lawmakers were arguing over whether to include casinos under the legislation. They decided not to. World Bank senior country economist Karl Kendrick Chua also reiterated the bank's recommendation to ease the Philippines' bank secrecy laws to help combat money laundering and identify tax evaders.