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Opinion

Cleared Tycoon

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Kim Wong, one of the country’s biggest junket operators, has been completely cleared of accusations that he was involved in the theft of $81 million from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016.

The Court of Appeals has affirmed a Manila trial court’s decision to lift the order to sequester Wong’s accounts with the Philippine National Bank.

The sequestration order – called an assets preservation order (APO) – came from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

The AMLC insisted that the Manila trial court ruling in favor of Kim Wong et al. was flawed and elevated its sequestration order to the Court of Appeals.

“This Court is not swayed to reconsider (the lower court’s decision),” the appellate court said.

From where I sit, the sequestration order looked suspicious.

After the Manila Regional Trial Court lifted the APO, the AMLC filed an appeal with the appellate court.

Why would officials at the AMLC try to sequester Wong’s bank accounts, when he returned the equivalent of P450 million that was paid to him as a gambling debt?

The AMLC didn’t go after the others who never returned the remainder of the $81 million.

This columnist is privy to the case because as his friend, I was one of those Wong consulted on whether to return or retain the P450 million.

Both Sen. Ping Lacson and I had advised Kim to return the unexpected windfall.

Wong could have insisted that he didn’t know that the money came from one of the biggest cyberheists in the history of online banking. He could have hired lawyers to defend his position in court.

But Kim Wong took our advice and returned the P450 million to the AMLC, an indication of his integrity.

With a slight twist, Kim Wong’s case is reminiscent of a Filipino couple, Melchor and Victoria Javier, who got a windfall of $1 million in 1977 when they were supposed to receive only $1,000.

A Mellon Bank employee who wrote the bank draft to the Javier couple added three extra zeros, making the money transfer $1 million.

It was a bank-to-bank transfer with the Pasay City branch of the Prudential Bank as the recipient.

The exchange rate at that time was $1 to P7.50. The Javiers got P7.5 million which, in today’s money, was equivalent to P270 million.

When the US bank tried to get the money back, the couple said they had already spent all of it.

A protracted court trial in the Philippines ruled in favor of the Javier couple. Though the Mellon Bank was able to reverse the ruling on appeal, the couple, by then, had disappeared.

*      *      *

The pickup truck tagged in the hit-and-run accident in Quezon City that killed tricycle driver Joel Laroa and injured his unnamed passenger belongs to a ranking police officer.

The vehicle’s registered owner is Lt. Col. Mark Julio Abong, chief of the Quezon City Police District’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit.

Abong said it was Ronald Centino, supposedly a mechanic maintaining the vehicle, who was driving. Centino, said to be a Quezon City resident, is now supposedly at large.

C’mon Abong, don’t give us, the public, that crap!

For all we know, you or your relative was driving the pickup truck (plate NGC 8456) when the hit-and-run accident happened.

For all we know, Ronald Centino does not exist.

According to a police report, Abong reported his vehicle missing at around 3 a.m. on Aug. 6, supposedly two hours before the accident took place at the corner of Anonas and Pajo streets.

For all we know, the police report was made after – repeat, after – the accident took place, and not before.

From my experience as a former crime reporter, the police usually protect one of their kind, more so a top police official.

Why have I come to the conclusion that there is a cover-up?

The pickup truck overtook a police patrol car and hit the tricycle, which was traveling in the opposite direction.

If that is so, why didn’t the patrol car, which was now behind the pickup truck, give chase?

Unless the occupants of the police patrol car were blind, they could have witnessed the hit-and-run accident.

Ginagago naman ninyo ang taumbayan (you’re making fools of the public).

*      *      *

The Commission on Audit has flagged the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) – for the nth time – for reportedly not exercising due diligence in buying P1.76 billion worth of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for COVID-19 frontliners.

The PPEs’ sale or public use was unauthorized, according to the COA.

The audit body said PS-DBM “cannot assure a client (agency) of the safety of the PPEs” meant for health workers, as they didn’t pass product notification from the Food and Drug Administration.

There goes a top official of the previous administration again!

The same official was behind the public being forced to wear face shields over face masks. He and his cohorts bought the face shields at a low price and sold them very high to PS-DBM. People in other countries don’t use face shields.

This official had the gumption to ask the head of a Cabinet department in the Marcos administration to give him P500 million which, he said, he placed at the department during the previous administration.

Kapal ng mukha. This official is shameless.

He was also behind the scandalously overpriced COVID-19 medical supplies and equipment that were sold by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. to PS-DBM to the tune of P8.7 billion.

KIM WONG

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