MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, September 1, ended its preliminary investigation into the money laundering charges filed against a number of individuals in connection with funds stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank.
Assistant State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra, who led the 4-month probe, said a resolution may be issued this September.
The resolution may include 3 consolidated complaints from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) against former bank manager Maia Santos-Deguito and 4 others. These are casino junket operators Kam Sin Wong (also known as Kim Wong) and Weikang Xu; and executives of remittance firm Philrem Service Corporation.
The cases involve $15 million of the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh Bank coursed through accounts at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) Jupiter branch in Makati City. The trail ended in Philippine casinos.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) earlier recovered and froze $2.7 million. Some $63 million remains missing, with Bangladeshi officials pursuing the stolen funds. (TIMELINE: Tracing the $81-million stolen fund from Bangladesh Bank)
Denying the charges
The respondents have denied the charges against them.
In her counter-affidavit, former RCBC Jupiter branch manager Deguito denied that she facilitated the money laundering, and accused RCBC president Lorenzo Tan of ordering her to open 4 fake accounts.
These accounts became the temporary repository of the $80,884,641.63 stolen funds. Deguito claimed Tan approved the transactions in her branch, and added bank officials were using her as a scapegoat to avoid criminal prosecution.
In June, Wong also denied the charges. He claimed Deguito facilitated the transactions. Wong also said he already returned to the government P38.28 million, as well as $4.63 million he got from the laundered money.
Philrem also sought a dismissal of the complaint filed by the AMLC against its executives for lack of probable cause. Philrem president Salud Bautista and chairman of the board and treasurer Michael Bautista submitted a joint counter-affidavit. Anti-money laundering compliance officer Anthony Pelejo submitted his own counter-affidavit.
In their counter-affidavits, they argued that the DOJ should dismiss the charges as AMLC’s complaint-affidavit did not specify a predicate crime by the alleged source of the money – an important element of money laundering.
They asserted that as the hacking occurred in Bangladesh, this goes against the principle of “territoriality” in the country’s criminal law. The alleged crime should have been committed in the Philippines, they said. The company also noted tha, as a remittance company, it is supposed to to remit every single centavo of its clients.
Philrem was the firm tasked with delivering the money from RCBC’s Jupiter Makati branch to local casinos – where the laundered funds went missing.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II vowed the case would be resolved swiftly. – Rappler.com