Osmeña: $17M unaccounted money seems to be with PhilRem

Chrisee Dela Paz

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Osmeña: $17M unaccounted money seems to be with PhilRem

Alecs Ongcal

Senators catch the owners of money transfer firm PhilRem contradicting their earlier testimonies on their transactions linked to the Bangladesh Bank fund heist

MANILA, Philippines – As the Senate blue ribbon committee ended on Tuesday, April 5, its fourth hearing on the Bangladesh Bank heist, Senator Sergio Osmeña III concluded that the $17 million still unaccounted for could still be with money transfer firm PhilRem Service Corporation.

“The committee concludes that, after the probe, the $17-million unaccounted funds could still be with PhilRem,” Osmeña said on the sidelines of the hearing on the $81 million stolen by hackers from a New York bank account of the Bangladesh central bank.

During the hearing, senators Teofisto Guingona III, Ralph Recto, and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV caught PhilRem president Salud Bautista and PhilRem treasurer Michael Bautista contradicting their earlier testimonies on their transactions linked to the Bangladesh Bank fund heist.

Bautista initially said that PhilRem delivered only P600 million to Weikang Xu in a meet-up at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Pasay City.

During the second hearing, Bautista told the Senate that there was an additional $18 million delivered to Weikang Xu, with all transactions happening at Solaire.

It was also during the second Senate hearing that sacked Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito brought up the name of casino junket agent Kam Sin “Kim” Wong. The owners of PhilRem did not tell the Senate at the time that they knew Wong. (READ: RCBC money laundering scam mirrors sins of the past)

During the third hearing, the PhilRem president said that Wong was present in all the transactions with Xu.

“You have a lot of explaining to do, because hearing after hearing after hearing, you have been saying that you delivered P600 million and $18 million to Weikang Xu in Solaire, and you also said that Wong was present when the money was picked from your house. You have contradicted yourself, I think you shouldn’t add to your problems by giving false testimony,” Guingona said.

This was then clarified by Philrem treasurer Bautista, saying: “The deliveries were supposedly for a Weikang Xu. The first delivery was conducted in Solaire. The rest… picked up from our house.”

‘Very important role’

For Osmeña, PhilRem “played a very important role” in the elaborately-planned heist, as the firm “was the one that exchanged the stolen funds into Philippine pesos and distributed the funds to the junket operators then casinos.”

Wong – who returned $4.63 million and P38.28 million to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) – said that the $17 million is still with PhilRem.

The PhilRem president, however, denied this. “We’ve given all our records. All the receipts are with you. We delivered everything. No money is with us.”

AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad said they froze two accounts associated with PhilRem, amounting to about P29,500.

The PhilRem president again denied RCBC’s request to open the firm’s accounts with the bank for investigation. – Rappler.com

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