MANILA, Philippines – The regional trial court (RTC) of Manila has ordered the release of $15 million that was part of the fund stolen from the Bangladesh central bank and laundered in the Philippines.
The money, which was surrendered by casino operator Kim Wong and forfeited by the Philippine government, is currently under the care of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)
Ricardo Paras III, chief state counsel at the Department of Justice (DOJ), said on Tuesday, September 20, that Manila RTC Executive Judge Reynaldo Alhambra granted the plea to release the money.
“Wherefore…the court hereby grants the petition and hereby declares the Bangladesh Bank of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to be the rightful owner of the amount totaling $4,630,000 and P488,280,000 that were forfeited and kept in the vault of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) pursuant to the order of this court dated July 7, 2016,” the court resolution, issued on September 16, read.
The court declared the Bangladesh government as the rightful owner of the $15 million, and the Embassy of Bangladesh may now coordinate with the BSP to have the amount turned over to them.
“Let the aforementioned forfeited amount…be released in favor of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,” the order said.
Paras also said the court proceedings for the release of the money took only around two months, citing no opposition to the government petition.
“There is a procedure. We have to follow our Anti-Money Laundering law and the procedure. We have to go to court to file. We just don’t give the money to anybody. There has to be a court order,” he said.
Paras added the government was still tracing the remainder of the $81 million. He also said Bangladeshi officials will be returning to the Philippines in October for this purpose.
The DOJ recently finished its preliminary investigation into the criminal charges. The respondents – Wong, former Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation branch manager Maia Santos Deguito, and executives of remittance firm Philrem Service Corporation – denied money laundering charges against them in counter-affidavits sent during the preliminary investigation. – Rappler.com