AMLC begins bid to seize assets linked to $81M bank heist
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' main gatekeeper against money laundering started its series of civil forfeiture cases to seize assets linked to the $81-million Bangladesh Bank fund heist.
On the sidelines of the 6th Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the bank heist on Tuesday, April 19, AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad said her office filed the case before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) last Friday, April 15.
"It covers the money that was turned over to the AMLC for safekeeping and the amount of money that was frozen by the AMLC by virtue of freeze order," Bacay-Abad said.
On Monday, Wong, through his company Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Limited, delivered another P200 million ($4.34 million) to AMLC.
A total of $9.8 million has now been returned by the casino junket agent's camp.
The funds are currently stored in the vaults of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), pending proper turnover to Bangladesh officials.
Also covered by the case are Wong's bank accounts, estimated to have around P15 million ($325,217.35).
According to Bacay-Abad, the Manila RTC issued a provisional asset preservation order (PAPO) on Monday to hold Wong's money in the banks pending the hearing.
Eastern Hawaii got hold of P1 billion or $21.575 million of the stolen funds.
Asked if Wong's camp would contest the case, the casino junket agent's lawyer, Ernesto Tabujara III, replied: "No, because that's not our money. Why would we contest?"
He, however, said the Bangladesh government should file its claim soon, "otherwise, it would be turned over to the Philippine government." (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)
More cases vs casinos, junket operators
AMLC plans to file more civil forfeiture cases on the assets of casinos and junket operators linked to the bank heist.
"We will do it by batch," Bacay-Abad said. "It has to go through proceedings. PAPO is just a provisional remedy while proceedings are ongoing."
She added that her office is expecting the proceedings "to last within 3 months."
"I hope it won't take that long. We don't expect any opposition from any party, so if there's no opposition, then court will allow AMLC to present evidence ex-parte," Bacay-Abad said.
Silverio Benny Tan, the legal chief of Solaire operator Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, said during the second hearing on March 29 that some P1.36 billion went through Solaire's gaming tables, a bulk consolidated into the account of "a big-ticket foreign junket operator" through instructions of Ding Zhize. (READ: Casino junket operator gives new leads in bank heist)
On March 10, Tan said Solaire froze Ding's accounts, yielding a total of P108.696 million or $2.34 million.
For the P108.696 million, Tan said he is waiting for a proper court order on how to dispose of it.
Meanwhile, a total of P532 million was played in Midas Hotel and Casino. (READ: 6 things we know about RCBC money-laundering scam)
"After verification with Eastern Hawaii, only P532 million was played in our casino. P111 million was withdrawn as winnings," Midas' lawyer Katrina Nepomuceno said last March 29.
Asked if the casino will contest the forfeiture order, Nepomuceno replied: "We didn't receive directly any amount from the player. What we have received was from the junket sub-agent. The money has been played, converted to non-negotiable chips and went to expenses, system already." – Rappler.com
$1 = P46.09