IF junket operator Kam Sin Wong, also known as Kim Wong, is telling the truth about remittance firm PhilRem Service Corp. still keeping the $17 million of the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank, then the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) should start going after the money remittance agent, Senate Assistant Minority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said over the weekend.
According to Sotto, the Senate has already done its part in extracting information from resource persons on the $81-million cyber heist and it is up to the concerned government agency to go after those who may have had direct involvement in the scandal.
It was Wong who revealed during a previous Senate blue ribbon committee hearing the multimillion-dollar heist that Philrem still has in its possession the $17 million.
PhilRem was said to have transferred the stolen money from Rizal Banking Commercial Corp. (RCBC) to different accounts and individuals.
Of the $81 million that was stolen and entered RCBC Jupiter Branch in Makati City(Metro Manila), about $63 million went to Solaire and Midas casinos, while the remaining $17 million, Wong said, is still with PhilRem.
Wong, the president of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Ltd. Co. that operates a hotel-casino at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone in northern Caayan province, said PhilRem transferred a total of P1 billion to his company’s account with the Philippine National Bank.
Of the amount, P550 million was converted to dead chips for junket players and P450 million was for payment of debt of Chinese trader Shuhua Gao.
Gao, according to Wong, was among the brains in the entry of the stolen money.
Sotto suggested that the AMLC should pursue the PhilRem case and retrieve whatever amount that the company may still be keeping.
“We can only investigate and make recommendations based on our findings but it is the AMLC that has the authority to pursue the case and make sure that those involved in the money-laundering scandal are brought to justice,” he said in an interview.
The senator, however, questioned a move of the AMLC not to freeze the accounts of PhilRem when those of the others who are involved in the scandal have been ordered frozen.
The failure of the AMLC to freeze the accounts of PhilRem, according to Sotto, is a concern because there were reports saying that the company already sent the $17 million abroad.
PhilRem president Salud Bautista, however, denied Wong’s claims that a portion of the stolen money was still with them, insisting that her company has wired all the money to Midas junket operator Weikang Xu.
PhilRem also denied the information that the $17 million has already been transmitted out of the country.
The AMLC during the hearing said it was still completing its investigation of PhilRem and that they are still verifying certain facts.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sergio Osmena 3rd in a radio interview said the Senate committee will focus on the $17 million allegedly still with PhilRem and try to find out who among Wong and Bautista is telling the truth.
“PhilRem is denying it but, according to Wong, Bautista did not give the $17million to the junket players.
Bautista claimed that PhilRem delivered the money to Solaire and Xu from February 5 to February 13.
Some of the amounts were even delivered personally, she said.
But Wong, in his testimony, said he was the one who picked up the money at the house of Bautista from February 10 to 15.
His total collection reached P300 million and $5 million cash.
Michael Bautista, husband of Salud, admitted that Wong went to their house.
Osmena said he wants Bautista to explain why she did not mention Wong’s name as among the recipients of the loot during the first two blue ribbon hearings.
“There are still a lot of holes and we need to reconcile discrepancies on testimonies of witnesses because not everybody is telling the truth here,” he noted.
The Tuesday hearing could also be exciting because Wong will be facing dismissed RCBC Jupiter Branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, who earlier told the committee that it was Wong who introduced to her the four individuals who own the dollar accounts where the stolen money was deposited.
Osmena said Deguito’s testimony could possibly refute Wong’s version of the story.