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Wong returns $4.63 million to BSP

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2016 - 10:00am

Casino junket operator Kam Sin “Kim” Wong, who strongly repudiated knowledge of the money-laundering scheme, returned $4.63 million to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) office at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) headquarters in Manila. He also promised to return P450 million of the P1 billion in 15-30 days, which was paid to him by Gao Shuhua, one of the two junket operators who facilitated the entry of the laundered money into Philippine casinos.

It took BSP staff two and half hours to count the money. Wong’s lawyer, Inocencio Ferrer Jr., witnessed the turnover. Also present was Bangladesh Ambassador John Gomes and Second Secretary and head of Chancery of the Bangladesh Embassy Probash Lamarong.

Ferrer said Wong was innocent of money laundering charges filed against him by the AMLC. “He is without fault. Whether Kim Wong returned the money or not, he has committed no crime,” Ferrer said when asked if his client was off the hook.

Wong testified on Tuesday’s Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing that two high rollers from Beijing and Macau transferred the $81 million to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC). He said he did not know the money was stolen from Bangladesh and that he merely helped the two Chinese nationals, Ding Xi Xie and Xua Hua Gao, open bank accounts.

Senator Ralph Recto said as much as $34 million could be recovered from two casinos and a foreign exchange brokerage Philrem and $10 million from a destitute casino in north. “Our law enforcement agencies must act swiftly to recover any portion of the lost that is still in the Philippines,” Recto said.

Meanwhile, businessman William Go filed two more counts of falsification of documents against RCBC branch manager Maia Deguito, and her deputy, Angela Ruth Torres, at the Makati prosecutor’s office.

Atty. Ramon Esguerra, lawyer of Go, said Wong’s testimony that Deguito delivered P20 million to Solaire clears his client of any liability.

RCBC has also filed charges of falsification of documents against Deguito and Torres in connection with the bank accounts under Go’s name.

Aquino hits Poe, Duterte

In a speech before thousands of voters in Caloocan, President Benigno “Simeon” Aquino chided Grace Poe for what seemed to be the senator’s choice of an arms race as a strategy to resolve the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

At the presidential debate in Cebu City on March 20, Poe hit the administration for setting aside the surface to air missile program of the military.

Aquino said Poe has not studied all the aspects involving the China South Sea issue.

Aquino said having a surface-to-air missile system was not necessarily a force projection that would prompt “our big foe” in the South China Sea not to belittle the Philippines, as Poe had suggested. “All I want to emphasize is it is foolish to engage in an arms race with a giant nation,” Aquino said.

Senator Grace Poe refused to comment on President Aquino’s criticism. “Let’s just let him be. I just said what I think we should do,” Poe said.

In Aquino’s speech in Santa Rosa, Laguna, he assailed Rody Duterte for threatening to resign if he failed to wipe out corruption and criminality in six months.

“When you are President, you don’t quit and hand the job over to your Vice President,” Aquino said.

No more time

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said on Thursday that the 16th Congress no longer has the time to pass a bill amending the bank secrecy law.

The two leaders said the remaining days of the 16th Congress will be devoted for the canvassing of votes. “There’s a lot of chance the amendatory bill will pass in the 17th Congress,” Belmonte said.

Meanwhile, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said there is a need to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 in the next Congress to include real estate properties and casinos.

“The government should maintain the country’s good standing, with the international financial system, by amending the AMLA. It is about time the AMLC be given additional power over casinos to make sure that these can no longer be used in money laundering activities,” Gatchalian said.

The Center survey

An independent survey conducted by The Center, conducted March 16-22, showed the four presidential candidates are in a statistical tie with Grace Poe, getting 26 percent; Rody Duterte, 25 percent; Jejomar Binay, 23 percent; and Mar Roxas, 20 percent.

Ed Malay, executive director of The Center, said that with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent, the survey of 1,800 respondents indicate the four candidates are in a statistical tie.

In the vice presidential race, Senator Bongbong Marcos and Chiz Escudero are also in a statistical tie, with Marcos at 27 percent and Escudero at 24 percent.

Leni Robredo is a close third at 21 percent.

Malay said that, in all likelihood, the presidential and vice presidential race will go down to the wire up to the time the last ballot is cast on May 9, 2016.

Pulse Asia March 15-20

The latest Pulse Asia survey on presidential preference shows Grace Poe on top, with 28 percent; Rody Duterte at second, with 24 percent; Jejomar Binay at third, with 23 percent; and Roxas at fourth, with 19 percent.

In the vice-presidential race, Senators Bongbong Marcos and Chiz Escudero were tied for first place, with 25 percent each. Leni Robredo got 21 percent. Alan Peter Cayetano was fourth at 14 percent.

Tidbits

Greetings to Manny and Sen. Cynthia Villar, Rod Valencia, Mayor Ramon Onate of Palompon, Leyte, Dalmacio Lim, Lee Amurao, Yoly Bautista, Chita Martinez, Johnny Sy, Jaime Dechavez, Michael Tibayan, Boy and Cora Tibayan, and Oca Tibayan.

 

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