The chairman of the Philippine gaming regulator and executives from several of the country’s casino resorts have been invited to hearings of the Senate of the Philippines starting this week, reports a local media outlet.
They are being asked to assist lawmakers in understanding how some of the US$81 million allegedly stolen from Bangladesh’s central bank reportedly found its way into Philippines casinos.
Among those reportedly being asked to assist the Senate (pictured) – the upper house of the country’s two-chamber legislature – are Cristino Naguiat, chairman and chief executive of the casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor).
The exclusion of casinos from anti-money laundering (AML) obligations contained specifically in the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act was at the request of some lawmakers and Pagcor, Senator Teofisto Guingona said in February 2013, following the approval of some other revisions of the 2001 act.
The Philippine Star newspaper on Saturday reported that as well as Mr Naguiat, figures being asked to assist the Senate in the hearings commencing this week were: Thomas Arasi, president and CEO of Solaire Resort and Casino Manila, operated by Bloomberry Resorts Corp; Reynaldo Bantug, chairman, president and CEO of Leisure and Resorts World Corp, the majority owner of Midas Hotel and Casino; and Clarence Chung Yuk Man, chairman and president of Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corp, operator of the City of Dreams Manila casino resort.
The Philippine casino regulator in early March said it was investigating claims that at least three casinos in the country were used as part of a money laundering scheme. Pagcor later said preliminary findings indicated only one of the country’s large-scale casino resorts was caught up in the case.
The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported on Saturday that the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council is preparing charges against a number of people allegedly involved in the illegal transfer of funds from the Bangladesh central bank to accounts in the Philippines.
“There is a clear violation of our anti-money-laundering law,” council chairman Amando Tetangco, who is also the governor of the Philippines’ central bank, was quoted saying by the Wall Street Journal. He reportedly added that more details would be given during Senate hearings on Tuesday.
Philippine immigration authorities on Friday prevented a manager of a Makati City branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) from leaving the country. The bank had been named in a February 29 story by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as the route by which the disputed funds had entered the country.
On Saturday the Philippine Star reported that Maia Santos-Deguito was asked to leave a Japan-bound aircraft awaiting take off at Manila International Airport after her name reportedly appeared on a watch list. A lawyer for Ms Santos-Deguito said she denied doing anything illegal.
A lawyer for William Go – a local businessman with some RCBC accounts that have been linked in some media reports to the channelling of the disputed money – claimed in comments at a Friday press conference that two RCBC accounts in Mr Go’s name had been set up after his signature had been forged, and that Ms Santos-Deguito had offered him up to PHP20 million (US$430,000) to help cover up the transactions by closing the accounts to throw off an internal investigation being undertaken by RCBC.
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