Philippine prosecutors have affirmed a prior decision not to file criminal charges against a casino executive and a junket operator regarding a 2016 case involving the theft by hackers of US$81 million belonging to the Bangladesh central bank – via an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the United States.
The money was diverted to four accounts at a Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) branch in Makati, Metro Manila. The funds were later moved to Philippine casinos, where they mostly disappeared. Of the total that found its way into the Philippine financial system, only approximately US$15 million has so far been returned to Bangladesh.
A resolution from the Philippine Department of Justice – reviewing a prior April ruling on the matter – said it had upheld a decision to drop the charges filed by the government’s Anti-Money Laundering Council against casino boss Kim Wong and junket operator Xu Weikang “for insufficiency of evidence”.
The resolution was dated August 24 but was only distributed to the media on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Mr Wong, described in media reports as a president and general manager of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co Ltd, a casino operator in the northern Philippines, turned over to Philippine authorities in late February 2016 part of the US$81 million allegedly stolen from Bangladesh’s central bank.
Mr Wong had said during a special Senate hearing on the cyber heist that he had neither knowledge of, nor any participation in, the entry to the Philippines – via RCBC – of allegedly stolen funds. Some of the money found its way into the Midas Hotel and Casino in Manila, a property majority-owned by Leisure and Resorts World Corp; and Solaire Resort and Casino in Entertainment City, a property developed and operated by Bloomberry Resorts Corp. The trail regarding that portion of the money went cold after the cash was mostly used to purchase gaming chips.
There is no suggestion that the managements of those casinos were either involved in the allegedly illegal transfers or had knowledge of them.
Mr Wong blamed two Chinese men – named as Gao Shuhua and Ding Zhize – for causing the money to be imported. He allegedly received PHP450 million (US$8.9 million) from Mr Gao as payment for the latter’s casino losses. The funds reportedly were part of the money stolen from the Bangladesh central bank accounts.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council had stated in its complaint – quoted by several Philippine media outlets – that Mr Xu and Mr Wong took the money while aware that the funds were “proceeds of unlawful activities.”
The latest Department of Justice resolution reaffirmed the filing of money laundering charges against a former RCBC bank manager for her part in the cyber heist, and against four unidentified persons who created fictitious bank accounts in RCBC where the stolen amounts were deposited. The latest resolution cleared three executives of remittance firm Philrem Service Corp of any wrongdoing, reverting a prior decision to press charges against them.
RCBC was fined in August 2016 PHP1 billion (US$19.64 million) by the Philippine central bank for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through its bank.
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"Our main focus is just making sure – and particularly within Australia – to the maximum extent possible, that we can have uniformity [among different jurisdictions]"
Chief executive of the Australia-based Gaming Technologies Association