Bangladesh envoy fears delay in recovery of stolen $81 million
Bangladesh is worried that the return of $81 million stolen by hackers from its central bank—or at least the initial tranches so far recovered from various parties in the Philippines—may be delayed.
In a recent interview with the Inquirer, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes said he was hoping that by April or May, before the next President would assume office, the money could be returned since most of the funds had already been accounted for.
Bangladesh is also concerned about the transfer of the money so far collected by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which will have to go through the process of forfeiture through the court.
“We don’t want delays that can be avoided keeping into consideration the legal process of the ‘forfeiture case.’ We are in contact with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and grateful to the justice secretary to provide us any legal advice and in this respect we are closely working with the DOJ,” Gomes said.
He noted that the Bangladesh Embassy would be submitting papers to formally claim the surrendered and confiscated amount as well as the balance.
“On the forfeiture case, I was told that it can be summarily disposed if there’s no other claimant,” Gomes said, adding that naturally, no one would come forward because it had been established that this was part of the money stolen by hackers from the central bank of Bangladesh.
Hackers’ IP address
Based on an April 20 report by a Bangladeshi newspaper, Protom ALO, citing initial findings on the cyberhacking, the IP address of the hackers was traced to Cairo, Egypt.
On the basis of the United Nations Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime, the DOJ is the one representing the government of Bangladesh in the local forfeiture case. “This is fine,” Gomes said, adding that whatever amount is collected would hopefully be sent this month to Bangladesh.
Gomes appealed to various players involved, including the casinos and remittance firm Philrem Service, to return whatever money was still left with them.
In the case of casinos, he noted that these had already made a profit out of the dirty money that was used to play on their gaming tables.
“Since they already made the profit out of the money which doesn’t belong to them, they should return the whole amount,” he said.
For instance, he noted the P107 million that was confiscated in Solaire and another P903 million in the hands of Macau-based casino operator Sun City.
The ambassador said the positive side of the incident was that the money amounting to $9.8 million from Kim Wong was already in the hands of the authorities. “I feel the others who hold the money (which can be returned) should be returned forthwith.”
Only $17 million of the entire $81 million dirty money flow has been unaccounted for. Wong suspects that the amount is still with Philrem but the firm has denied his allegation.
Gomes welcomed a statement by RCBC president Lorenzo Tan that he would recommend to the board to set aside some money to give back to Bangladesh if the bank were found liable. On average, Tan said the bank could provide P1 billion to P2 billion a year for such types of provisions.
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