Kim Wong, the Manila based junket operator at the centre of the Philippine investigation regarding the trail of the money stolen from the Bangladesh Central Bank, stated that high stake gamblers from Beijing and Macau were behind the entry of $81 million into the country.
Wong said that he only served as an interpreter for Gao Shu Hua, a junket operator from Beijing and Ding Zhi Ze, from Macau, when the two wanted to open an account in the Philippines.
He denied direct involvement in and knowledge on the cyber heist:
“I have nothing to do with the forging of bank documents for the $81 million. I don’t know the source of the $81 million.”
According to him, his interest in the transaction is limited for the settling of a gambling debt and for business. His company, Eastern Hawaii, received $21 million of the stolen funds. Wong claimed that part of this was payment for the 450 million Philippine pesos owed to him by Gao, while the rest was converted into gambling chips.
He received an additional $5 million of the stolen money and said that he was willing to return the $4.63 million that still remains of it.
Hackers originally attempted to steal $951 million from an account held at the Bangladesh Central Bank for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The bulk of the transfers were stopped but $101 million amount was successfully routed out. $20 million was sent to Sri Lanka but was eventually flagged by the bank handling the transaction who saw the activity to be suspicious. $81 million was deposited into four accounts in a Philippine bank, the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC).
Wong’s name was traced to these four dollar accounts, although the investigation shows that the documents used to register them were fallacious.
The RCBC manager, Maia Santos Deguito, who approved the opening of the fictitious accounts, said that she did so upon instruction of the RCBC president, Lorenzo Tan, to take care of Wong and give him preferential accommodation or treatment.
With the reputation of the Philippines at risk within the global financial sector, Senators of the Republic lambasted Tan for the deficient controls of RCBC. Tan denied the accusations of Deguito and further added that transactions up to $400 million need not be communicated to him. Amounts in excess of that should be reported to him by his staff at the end of the day.
Senator Sergio Osmeña scorned the practice:
“The money would be long gone – goodbye! – before it comes to you at the end of the day.”
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said that foreign governments probably consider the Philippines as a weak link in the international financial system.
Another hindrance to the investigation is the exclusion of gambling establishment from the requirements of the country’s Anti Money Laundering Act to report large or suspicious transactions. It is as good as a dead end once money gets converted into chips on gambling tables.
Enrile lobbied for the exclusion of casinos from the scope of the law to attract big casino firms to locate into the country at the time when Macau tightened its campaign against corruption.