Bangladesh reassured of PH help to recover stolen money
MANILA — The Philippines has reiterated that it is committed to help Bangladesh recover through proper legal procedures the $81 million robbed from its central bank by cybercriminals let February, which made its way into the domestic financial and gaming sectors.
“We want to assure you that the Philippine government, including all its instrumentalities from the Central Bank, the DOJ [Department of Justice], DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs], and of course the AMLC [Anti-Money Laundering Council], are 100-percent behind you … We want to assure you that we will do everything that we can to assist you,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes in a recent meeting.
Dominguez nonetheless reminded Gomes that “recovery efforts would have to go through the proper legal procedures for Bangladesh’s own protection so that no other party could contest its rightful claim to this stolen money in the future,” the Department of Finance (DOF) disclosed in a statement.
“We have a legal system that has to be respected and this system has to be followed so that whatever claim you are awarded, nobody can challenge that in the future,” Dominguez pointed out.
To date, about $15 million were turned over for safekeeping by junket operator Kim Wong to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas during the height of the Senate investigation on the so-called Bangladesh Bank heist.
The DOJ has already filed a petition seeking the Manila Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) nod to forfeit the $15 million in favor of Bangladesh.
The DOF quoted DOJ chief state counsel Ricardo Paras III as explaining during the meeting that the DOJ”filed a petition in favor of Bangladesh on Aug. 26, after which the Manila RTC ruled on Aug. 30—or just four days later—that it was sufficient in form and substance.”
“Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Manila RTC gave the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) 15 days to comment on the petition. The court will render a decision after the OSG files its comment,” Paras said.
“After filing their [OSG] comment, we will now wait for the judgment of the court for the $15 million,” Paras added.
Also, Paras said “another P107.35 million of the stolen fund, roughly equivalent to $2.3 million, was voluntarily frozen by Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels Inc. [operator of Solaire casino], which could go through the same legal procedures undertaken by the DOJ in returning the $15 million in favor of the Bangladesh government.”
For Dominguez, “another target of the immediate recovery effort is the amount of $17 million,” which the DOF noted that Gomes had claimed during the Senate probe was in the possession of remittance company Philrem Service Corp.
The DOF quoted AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay Abad as saying that the $17 million allegedly still with Philrem was what “we’re still working on,” adding that the AMLC was “looking at the assets of the firm’s owners for possible forfeiture.”
“The immediate objective right now is the $15 million plus the $2 million. We can assist you 100-percent on that. The AMLC, as they mentioned, is continuing the investigation for whatever balance there is. Maybe there’s another $17 million, but we’re going to continue seeking that and hopefully recovering that on your behalf,” Dominguez told Gomes. SFM
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