Wong completes turnover of stolen Bangladesh bank money

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Casino junket operator Kim Wong has completed the turnover to the Anti-Money Laundering Council for safekeeping an amount believed to be part of the $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank. 

Lawyer Kristoffer James Purisima, one of the legal counsels of Wong, yesterday delivered another P250 million to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) complex in Manila.

The money was placed in nine large plastic bags comprised of P230 million in P1,000 bills and P20 million in P500 bills.

In all, Wong has turned over to the AMLC P488.28 million and $4.63 million that casino junket agent Gao Shuhua had abandoned in Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd. and Midas Casino.

Wong’s lawyers turned over $4.63 million last April 1 and another P38.28 million last April 4 to AMLC executive director Julia Bacay-Abad.

Bangladesh Ambassador John Gomes witnessed the turnover.

Through his lawyers, Wong turned over another P200 million to the AMLC last April 18 and the remaining P250 million yesterday. The entire P450 million represents a debt paid by Gao to Wong.

Last April 5, Wong committed to return the entire amount, which he said was money stolen from the Bangladesh central bank.

He asked the Senate Blue Ribbon committee for 15 to 30 days to raise the money.

“May 5 is the last day of the 30 days that I had requested from the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to return the P450 million,” he said in a statement in Filipino.

“So now one day before the deadline, I am returning the shortage of P250 million.” 

Wong said he borrowed P200 million from Solaire Resort and Casino, while the rest was borrowed from “well-meaning” friends.

“It was not easy to come up with this amount,” he said in Filipino.

“Many friends helped me raise the money. They saw that I have been pinned down so they volunteered. The first P200 million that was returned came from Solaire. It was used to pay my debt, which they loaned me again.”

Wong said he is returning the “dirty funds” because his conscience is clear.

“I would like to show that my conscience is clear,” he said in Filipino. “I have one word and I know how to keep my promise.”

Doing business has been difficult since most of his personal and corporate accounts have been frozen by the Court of Appeals, he added.

Wong said his reputation as a casino junket operator has remained intact and that his patrons have remained loyal.

He vowed to concentrate on growing his business despite the slew of cases that the  AMLC had filed against him.

Wong also vowed to clear his name and that he was unaware of the source of the money since junket operators like him do not ask players about the origin of their funds.

AMLC has started the ball rolling for the return of the money to the Bangladesh central bank after it filed a petition for civil forfeiture case before the regional trial court in the National Capital Region.

AMLC has filed criminal charges for violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act against Wong, Weikang Xu, Philrem, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Jupiter branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, as well as Michael Francis Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, AMLC and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee are conducting separate investigations after the money stolen from the Bangladesh central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York entered the Philippines through fictitious bank accounts at RCBC.

Ambassador Gomes sought yesterday the help of President Aquino in the recovery $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank.

Speaking at a media forum in Greenhills, San Juan, Gomes said the administration must resolve the problem before Aquino’s term ends in June 2016.

“We don’t have too much money... this $81 million is a huge amount of money for a country like Bangladesh,” he said.

“I’m quite confident that eventually this money will be returned to Bangladesh. I’m very optimistic that in one day or another this money will be returned,” he added. “I wish that within this administration by June it could be resolved. That is my view.”

Gomes is hoping that the casinos would return the money still in their possession.

“I have been told that they’ve already made a profit [from it], so they can easily return the money,” he said. – With Non Alquitran

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