PH seeks Bangladesh help on $81-M heist

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 04 2016 07:16 PM

Bangladesh Ambassador John Gomes (left) talks to Senator Teofisto Guingona III, head of the Senate committee doing a probe on the laundering of $81 million stolen from the Bank of Bangladesh. Jonathan Cellona. ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Philippines has asked Bangladesh to share details of its investigation into an $81-million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh central bank after the proceeds ended up in Manila, the Finance department said Sunday.

The money was shifted electronically from the Bangladesh central bank's account with the US Federal Reserve to a Manila branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp, from where it was funneled into local casinos in February.

Officials from both countries met in Manila last week to discuss efforts to recover the rest of the funds. 

The Bangladeshi delegation thanked the Philippines for returning $15 million, the finance department said in a statement.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and other Philippine officials "strongly recommended that Bangladesh share with the Department of Justice and the Anti-Money Laundering Council the results of their investigation into the cyber-heist," the statement added.

This would help speed up recovery efforts in the courts, it added.

"The Bangladesh officials said progress has been made in the investigation and that it would send the government whatever updates they have on the probe," the department added.

Last month the Philippines said it had launched criminal proceedings against six Filipino bankers accused of failing to stop the laundering of the money.

The complaint also cited the Filipino respondents' alleged "deliberate refusal to know the unlawful origins of the funds."

No one has been arrested in the Philippines over the heist but the government has recovered the $15 million, some of it from a Manila-based casino operator who has pledged to cooperate with the criminal inquiry.

The brazen cyber-heist highlighted how the Philippines' banking loopholes have made the corruption-prone nation a destination for dirty money.

Philippine law exempts casino transactions from scrutiny by the country's anti-money laundering council unless a case has been filed in court.

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