At least $15.2 million out of $81 million stolen from Bangladesh Bank and sent to a Philippines bank is in the possession of an accused Chinese businessman based in Philippines, according to his testimony during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
Kam Sin Wong, a Chinese junket operator known in the Philippines as Kim Wong, further claimed another $17m still remains with the remittance company Philrem, the company involved in converting the laundered BB money.
Meanwhile, one of the casinos involved in the money trail, Solaire, reportedly
froze $2.34m in chips and money after the theft was exposed.
Wond told the hearing that the $81 million was remitted by two casino junket agents and gamblers, including a Beijing resident named Gao Shuhua whom he has known for eight years, and a Macau resident named Ding Zhize he just met in February.
Wong, who was earlier termed as the brains behind the heist by a senator, volunteered to return $5.49 million — $4.63 million dollars that remains in a junket account in Solaire Resort and Casino, and another 40 million pesos ($8,63,000) still in Midas Hotel casino under the account of his company, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co.
Wong said Gao also paid him 450 million pesos ($9.71 million) for a loan that covered Gao’s losses in an earlier gambling spree in the country.
He said if compelled to do so, he can also return that money.
Casino operators and government regulators said it may be difficult to account for the rest of the money, which was used at gambling tables.
Silverio Benny Tan, corporate secretary of Solaire’s operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp., told the hearing the casino has frozen 108.67 million pesos ($2.34 million) worth of chips and money in different denominations confiscated from the gamblers when the bank heist issue came to light.
Wong alleged $17 million is still with remittance company Philrem, which the company owners denied during the hearing.
He said $370,000 in cash was withdrawn by the casino junket agents in violation of their agreement that all the money would remain in the casino accounts.
Wong, against whom and six other accused the Philippines anti-money laundering council brought charges for the laundering of $81 million of Bangladesh Bank reserve, appeared before the third hearing of the senate blue ribbon committee in Manila.
The $81 million was remitted to five accounts created with fictitious names at a branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, consolidated and then remitted to the casinos and junket operators through Philrem.
The names of Gao and Ding surfaced for the first time in the money laundering case.
Wong said Maia Deguito, the bank branch manager, and Gao met in May, 2015 in his office to discuss opening the accounts for a big amount of money that will be brought in and invested by Gao.
Deguito was not present at the hearing as the senate committee allowed her seven-day time for appearing before the committee.
Wong said he had no role in the fake paperwork and that was all arranged by Deguito.
On Februart 4, Wong said Gao told him that he and Ding would close their casino in Macau and invest the money in Manila. Gao also reportedly said he had money from the sale of his land in China.
On February 5, the money was transferred in portions to the five fictitious bank accounts. Philrem then electronically transferred the money to the casino accounts while other amounts were delivered in cash to Wong and the junket agents, or received by Wong at the house of Philrem owners Salud and Concon Bautista.
Bangladesh also turned over to the senate committee a list of 30 other suspicious transactions that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York did not execute.
The list showed another $850 million would have been transmitted to the fake accounts in the Philippine bank had those transfers not been stopped.
At the hearing senator TG Guingona said 30 of the 35 payment instructions for the New York Fed on February 5 would have triggered the transfer of $850 million to five fictitious accounts at the RCBC Jupiter, Makati branch had these not become the subject of a stop payment order, reported ABS-CBN News.
‘What is notable here is that all payment instructions were created on the same day – February 5, 2016,’ Guingona said at the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing.
‘All 30 payment instructions totalling $850-million were created in two seconds: 12:51:51 to 12:51:52.’
Four payment transactions – totalling roughly $81 million – managed to make it to five fictitious RCBC accounts and ended up in casinos and a casino junket operator, in what was a clear case of money laundering.
A fifth transaction, for $20 million, to a Sri Lankan non-profit organisation got held up because the hackers misspelled the name of the NGO.
The full name of the non-profit could not be learned. But banking officials said the hackers misspelled ‘foundation’ in the NGO’s name as ‘fandation’, prompting a routing bank, Deutsche Bank, to seek clarification from the Bangladesh central bank, which stopped the transaction.
At the same time, the unusually high number of payment instructions and the transfer requests to private entities – as opposed to other banks – made the Fed suspicious, which also alerted the Bangladeshis, the officials said.
Guingona said in the New York Fed’s message to the Bangladesh Bank, the former asked the details of the five RCBC account holders.
‘They were wondering why a central bank is dealing with individual beneficiaries,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Inquirer reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to summon Kim Wong and Weikang Xu over the criminal complaint filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in connection with the $80.9 million stolen from the BB.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said a preliminary investigation would be conducted on the complaint filed by AMLC.
The case against Kim Wong and Weikang Xu, according to Arellano, has been consolidated to the complaint filed by AMLC against Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and four others.
Earlier, the DOJ summoned Deguito to attend the preliminary investigation set on April 12 and 19.
‘A separate subpoena will be issued in the next few days for Wong and Xu,’ he said. Once a subpoena is issued, the two will be required to appear before the prosecutor and submit their counter-affidavit in response to the complaint filed by AMLC.
Based on the complaint, about $21.6 million went to Wong while Xu got $59.2 million.
The AMLC had filed a similar complaint against Deguito and the four owners of the accounts where the laundered money was deposited: Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara, and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez.
The council included the four individuals in the complaint despite an initial finding that these names might be fictitious.
Philippine authorities have obtained a copy of the Chinese passport of Weikang Xu.
Details in the passport printed in English, show that Xu is 44 years old, and was born on Nov. 3, 1972.
His passport was issued on May 23, 2011 by the Ministry of Public Security of the Republic of China and will expire on May 24, 2021.
Source: New Age