CASINO junket operator Kim Wong returned P38.28 million to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on Monday in addition to the $4.63 million he surrendered last week as part of the funds stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh central bank.
Wong, represented by his legal counsels Victor Fernandez and Inocencio Ferrer Jr., turned over the money to AMLC member and Insurance Commissioner Emmanuel Dooc and Executive Director Julia Abad.
Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes, Bangladesh Bank representatives and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Vicente Aquino were present to witness the turnover.
“We turned over to the central bank exactly P38.28 million,” Fernandez told reporters in an ambush interview after the accounting of the funds by the BSP Cash Department.
The P38.28 million represents the money abandoned by junket player Gao Shu Hua in Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Ltd. (EHLCL) and Midas Casino.
Wong’s counsel said Wong surrendered the money in accordance with his word at a Senate hearing last week.
To return more within 15-20 days
“Kim Wong is one of the stockholders of Eastern Hawaii. Kim Wong also mentioned in the Senate hearing that he was also willing to return P450 million but he requested a period of 15 to 20 days within which to complete the funds. According to Mr. Wong, he was even willing to sell properties to be able to raise the necessary money,” he said.
In last week’s testimony at the Senate, Wong admitted he received P100 million in cash on February 5 and an additional P300 million and $5 million from February 10 to 14. However, he maintained that he did not know that the money he received was part of the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh central bank’s account with the Federal Reserve in New York.
Fernandez said they surrendered the money to the AMLC and not to the Bangladesh Bank officials so that the negotiations would be done at a government-to-government level.
Two hours to count
Wong’s lawyer said it took two hours to count the money, which were in P1000 and P500 denominations loaded in a trolley bag.
Fernandez admitted, though, that two counterfeit P500 bills were found among the peso-denominated notes and Ferrer had to shell out P1,000 to replace the fake bills. Abad also confirmed there were two counterfeit P500 bills found in the bag of money turned over on Monday, but declined to comment further.
Without elaborating, Fernandez said Wong “will attend Tuesday’s hearing because he wants to finish this thing as soon as possible.”
At a press briefing after Monday’s turnover, the AMLC confirmed that the amount of money it received from Wong’s counsel was exactly P38.280 million.
“After the money was counted, we issued an acknowledgement receipt. We are acknowledging the receipt of the said amount for turn over to the Bangladesh Bank,” said AMLC Executive Director Abad.
Abad said arrangements are being made with the Bangladesh government for the official turnover of the funds to the Bangladesh Bank.
“As far as the AMLC is concerned, a bigger amount of money should be recovered from their groups. There’s still much to be returned. The amount of $81 million has been stolen from the Bangladesh Bank and was remitted or received by these groups so we have to recover the same amount of money,” she said.
Wong, in his Senate testimony, said two Chinese businessmen – Gao Shuhua and Ding Zhize – opened the bank accounts at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., where the stolen money was transferred with the help of RCBC Jupiter Street Branch Manager Maia Santos-Deguito.
The blue ribbon committee said it would be difficult to compel Gao and Ding to attend the Senate inquiry.
Senator Sergio Osmena 3rd, vice chairman of the committee, said they want Gao and Ding to appear as they have been named as the brains behind the laundering of stolen money and their testimony is expected to shed light on the matter.
“They [Gao and Ding] must face the Senate and explain why they accepted the money for us to see the entire picture and determine who should be charged,” Osmena told a radio interview.
The panel has asked Interpol to track down the two Chinese junket operators.
“We are asking for the cooperation of the international police agencies. But we are not sure if the Chinese government will cooperate because we don’t have very nice relations with China at this time,” Osmeña noted.
The committee will resume its investigation today and 35 resource persons including Deguito and Wong are expected to attend.