Philrem chief apologizes to Bangladesh over $81M heist, to return P10M cut from deal
MANILA — Saying they were unaware that they were dealing with funds suspected of having been stolen from the overseas bank accounts of the Bangladeshi government, the president of foreign exchange dealer Philrem Services Inc. apologized on Thursday, to the ambassador of the impoverished South Asian nation and offered to return all proceeds it made from the transaction.
Salud Bautista – the president of the firm that facilitated the conversion of $81 million in funds stolen from the Bangladeshi central bank into the local currency – said Philrem “has no interest in profiting from any questionable sources.”
“We will prepare a cheque as soon as the Bangladeshi delegation confirms to us who the payee will be,” Bautista said, adding that the total amount the foreign exchange dealer made from the transaction — and would return — was P10,474,654.
“That cheque will represent every centavo our company earned from this series of transactions,” she explained. “I would like to present this to the Bangladeshi delegation, not only as an apology but as a symbol of a Filipino company willing to help find justice.”
Reading a prepared statement, amid intense questioning from senators over its role in converting the stolen dollars into the pesos, she said the company “accepted this transaction with the understanding from the receiving bank that this was a clean and legitimate transaction.”
“It now seems evident to us that this was not true, and we are deeply regretful of our unintended participation in this shameful chapter in Philippine history,” Bautista added.
After the hearing, Bautista approached the Bangladeshi ambassador to Manila, John Gomes, who was overheard saying that he was in no position to accept the cheque offered by Philrem, that he would have to consult his government’s lawyers first, and that his main goal, since the scandal erupted, has always been the recovery of the missing $81 million.
Of the amount that was allegedly stolen by electronic hackers from the Bangladesh Bank’s accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a total of $61 million was converted into the local currency by Philrem, acting on orders of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.’s Jupiter St., Makati City branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito.
Bautista said Deguito’s instructions were being made purportedly on behalf of RCBC’s client William So Go, which the Chinese-Filipino businessman denied..
About $50 million of the funds, after having been converted into peso, were eventually transferred to the accounts of Solaire Resort and Casino and Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co., the latter being an online gaming firm located in the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority in Santa Ana, Cagayan province.
During the hearing, Anti-Money Laundering Council executive director Julia Bacay-Abad said the dirty money watchdog froze the bank accounts of Kim Wong (a.k.a. Kam Sin Wong) because it detected money moving from Eastern Hawaii to the Chinese-Filipino businessman after this.
Philrem’s Bautista also corrected an earlier “misimpression” that the company made only P50 per transaction, saying this flat fee would apply only to expatriate Filipino workers to help them remit funds to their local beneficiaries.
“However, when we deal with other financial transactions, we apply a handling fee, and this is variable depending on the kind of transaction at hand,” she said. “For the transaction in question, our handling fee is one-fourth of 1 percent.” SFM
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