MANILA is set to return $15 million out of $81 million in foreign reserves of Bangladesh laundered to the Philippines early this year, the Bangladeshi envoy bared on Thursday.
Ambassador John Gomes revealed that the portion of the stolen money will be returned to Bangladesh Bank this month, and said President Rodrigo Duterte had vowed to do all he could to return the whole amount.
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) are now working on our behalf to get this money back to Bangladesh,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of a forum that discussed the heist.
The ALMC has already accounted for about $60 million of the missing funds, which included the $15 million turned over by casino junket operator Kim Wong, the $28 million with Solaire Resort and Casino and the $17 million allegedly with Philrem Services Corp.
About $21 million remains missing.
Hackers supposedly stole $81 million from a Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York City.
The funds were then transferred to accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.’s Jupiter branch in Makati City.
Citing a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Bangladeshi investigation team, Gomes said the still unidentified hackers could have been from North Korea or Pakistan.
He said the hacking was done on a religious day in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh government has already hired two information technology companies from New York to help unravel the hacking incident.
With the Duterte administration’s drive against corruption, the ambassador said he was confident the whole $81 million would be returned “very, very soon.”
“I don’t believe that it’s not possible to recover the money,” he said.
“If the President is so serious about fighting crime and corruption, I feel that this will be an issue which he will address also,” Gomes added.
“During my meeting with President Duterte he said, ‘Ambassador, I will do whatever it takes so that your money will be returned,’” he said.
Gomes said bilateral relations between the Philippine and Bangladesh remain normal.
As a matter of fact, he said, there has been an increase in the number of Filipinos going to Bangladesh for high-paying jobs.
“Because this was not done by the Philippine people. It was done by few individuals, few criminals. So why should we be affected?” he added.
Some Bangladeshis however have vented their ire on migrant Filipinos in Dhaka.
“It was so bad … they are being told by the Bangladeshis, ‘Hey! Are you from the Philippines? Return our money. You took our $81 million money,’” he said.
Charles Jose, assistant secretary and spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said there are only 400 Filipinos in Bangladesh.