Kim Wong on returning Bangladeshi funds: ‘Follow the law’
MANILA — Kim Wong – one of the central figures in the $81-million money laundering scandal – has questioned the move of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to directly turn over to the Bangladeshi government the funds he had surrendered as a casino junket operator, saying that any turnover should be done in accordance with Philippine laws.
In a letter to Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Teofisto Guingona III, Wong’s lawyers, Inocencio Ferrer Jr. and Kristoffer James Purisima, called AMLC’s stand “fundamentally erroneous, procedurally infirm and grossly contrary to law.”
AMLC originally wanted Wong to issue a waiver and directly return to Bangladesh $4.63 million and P38.28 million that he turned over to the agency for safekeeping. But upon prodding by Guingona and Juan Ponce Enrile last week, AMLC changed its tune and decided to follow its own rules.
Wong has said that he has no objections to returning the money to its rightful owners, but said that — upon the advise of his counsels — any turnover should be in accordance with Philippine laws.
Wong, owner of the Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Limited, earlier said the funds were abandoned by his junket agent Gao Shuhua at Solaire Resort and Casino and Midas Casinos where the stolen money from the Bangladeshi government was supposedly funnelled.
The money forms part of the $81-million stash, which was allegedly stolen by cyber thieves and found its way to four accounts in Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation’s Jupiter branch, and later transferred by money remittance firm Philrem Services Corp. to various casinos and junket operators.
Citing Section 12 and 17 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), Wong’s lawyers said that “before any money or property can be turned-over and/or delivered to its rightful owner, AMLC should file before a court… a verified ex parte petition for forfeiture.”
Specifically, the law requires the filing of an action for civil forfeiture in accordance with the Rules of Court.
“Thus, to allow the direct turnover of said funds to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh without judicial intervention would be a direct violation of the provisions of said law,” the lawyers stressed.
During the Senate’s fourth public hearing on the money laundering scandal, AMLC executive director Julia Bacay-Abad sought Wong’s conformity for the immediate turnover of the funds.
In their legal opinion, Wong’s counsels also underscored that the funds surrendered by their client was neither technically owned by Wong nor his company Eastern Hawaii, since it was merely left by Gao at the two casinos.
“Unless otherwise judicially declared, legal ownership of the said funds still rests with Gao as the person who introduced the same to both Solaire and Midas,” they said. SFM
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