Casino junket operator gives new leads in Bangladesh bank heist

Chrisee Dela Paz
Casino junket operator gives new leads in Bangladesh bank heist
More leads surface as key witness Kim Wong faces the Senate, steering authorities to the location of the stolen money and two alleged main players in the money-laundering case

MANILA, Philippines – As the Senate held its third hearing into the country’s biggest recorded money-laundering case, a casino junket agent gave new leads in the trail of the stolen Bangladesh Bank funds.

In his first appearance before the Senate blue ribbon committee on Tuesday, March 29, Kam Sin “Kim” Wong named two Chinese casino junket operators allegedly involved in the laundering of $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Wong, who vehemently denied knowledge of the money-laundering scheme, also helped trace some $7.04-million cash left from the $81 million stolen money. (READ: $951M stolen money would have gone to RCBC)

Chinese junket operators

Wong told the Senate panel that Ding Zhize and Gao Shuhua faciliated the entry of the laundered money into Philippine casinos

Gao, who Wong had known for about 8 years, had a P450-million debt to Wong after losing money in casinos in 2014, he said.

Wong added that he knew Ding through Gao who, he said, had “promised” him that he would bring in more casino players in the Philippines. 

“Two foreigners brought the $81 million in the country. One of them has been in and out of the country and is a popular junket agent and high roller. I will write their names and put it in a sealed envelope, with a copy of their passport and will submit it to the committee,” Wong told the Senate panel in Filipino.

CCTV SCREENSHOTS. Senator Sergio Osmeña III browsing through evidences handed out by Wong. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Wong recalled that on February 5, he received a phone call from sacked Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, informing him that there would be a huge amount of funds that would enter the junket operators’ accounts. (READ: RCBC money-laundering scam mirrors sins of the past)

He said he advised Deguito to send the money to Solaire Resort and Casino in “cold cash.”

Also within the day, Wong said PhilRem Service Corporation president Salud Bautista personally delivered P80 million in cash, while Deguito brought in about P20 million.

“The first delivery of P90 million was delivered to Weikang Xu who we met at the casino,” Bautista testified at the Senate hearing.

From February 5 to February 13, the alleged stolen funds from Bangladesh Bank were transferred to PhilRem, Bautista said.

PhilRem then converted part of the $81 million into pesos and delivered the money in cash tranches to registered casino junket operator Xu, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Limited, and Bloomberry Hotels Incorporated (Solaire).

HE SAID, SHE SAID. PhilRem's Bautista says all $81 million had been delivered to Weikang Xu. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Of the $81-million stolen funds, Wong said about $63 million went to Solaire and Midas casinos; the remaining $17 million is still with PhilRem. Bautista, however, denied this, saying the firm delivered “everything to Weikang Xu.”

Solaire, Wong to return some funds

Silverio Benny Tan, the legal chief of Solaire operator Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, confirmed during the hearing that some P1.36 billion went through Solaire’s gaming tables, a bulk of which were consolidated into the account of “a big-ticket foreign junket operator” through instructions of Ding.

On March 10, Tan said Solaire froze Ding’s accounts, yielding a total of P108.696 million or $2.34 million. 

“We are waiting for a proper court order on how to dispose of it,” Tan told the Senate.

Acting as agent for Midas Hotel and Casino, Wong also confirmed that his company, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Limited, got hold of P1 billion or $21.575 million of the stolen funds. 

Of the P1 billion, Wong took P450 million as Gao’s debt payment, while P550 million went through the gaming tables. He said P510 million of that amount was lost to Midas.

During the hearing, Wong said he is willing turn over some $4.63 million left under the junket operations.

FROZEN ACCOUNTS. AMLC's Julia Bacay-Abad says authorities were able to freeze some $68,000 left with the fictitious RCBC accounts. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Meanwhile, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad told the Senate panel that AMLC was also able to freeze some $68,000 left with the fictitious RCBC accounts, where the funds were deposited before entering the casinos.

All these frozen funds totaled to $7.038 million – less than a tenth of the $81-million stolen funds.

For his part, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes believes that the probe into the heist is “going [in] the right direction.”

“We are actually very optimistic with the way the hearing is going on,” Gomes told reporters after the hearing.

Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Senate blue ribbon committee chair, said during the hearing that a total of $951 million stolen money from Bangladesh Bank’s account would have all gone to RCBC, had it not been for the due diligence of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. – Rappler.com

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