The Court of Appeals in the Philippines has affirmed its earlier decision to lift an asset freeze order covering the Chinese owner of a Philippine casino who at one time had been accused of laundering some of the US$81 million stolen in a 2016 hacking heist from the Bangladesh central bank.
The Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council had appealed against an April 29 decision by the court, which said a Manila trial court had not misused its powers in lifting what is known as an “asset preservation order” on several bank accounts, involving a number of individuals and a company.
The latest ruling, dated August 2, had been taken after “careful and judicious study” of the “merits of the case”, relating to freezing of bank accounts linked respectively to Kam Sin Wong, of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co Ltd, a casino operator in Cagayan in the northern Philippines; and Qiaoqiao Wendy Wang and Dong Na Xu.
The appellate court had earlier stated that the handing over to the Anti-Money Laundering Council of money held in the accounts was an acknowledgement that the cash had come from the hacking theft, but that the Philippine authorities had failed to prove that the bank accounts that held it were actually opened for the purpose of receiving stolen funds.
In its August 2 decision, the court said the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s motion “fails to present any new and substantial matter, or any cogent and compelling reason which would justify reconsideration of the court’s ruling”.
In March 2016, lawyers for Mr Wong – also known as ‘Kim Wong’ – had turned over US$4.63 million said to be connected to the Bank of Bangladesh heist, to the offices of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
A Manila trial court had subsequently said that act was a demonstration of good faith on the part of Mr Wong.
In September 2017, Philippine prosecutors had affirmed a prior decision not to file criminal charges against Mr Wong and what was termed a “junket” operator, in relation to the 2016 theft.
It involved the hacking of a Bangladesh Bank account held with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The US$81 million stolen was diverted to four accounts at a Rizal Commercial Banking Corp 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 a fraction has so far been returned to Bangladesh.
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