JUNKET operator Kam Sin Wong, also known as Kim Wong, on Thursday surrendered to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) $4.63 million, part of the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank.
Wong, represented by his legal counsel Inocencio Ferrer Jr., turned over the money to AMLC member and Insurance Commissioner Emmanuel Dooc, Executive Director Julia Abad and officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The council said the fund will be placed in the BSP vault for safekeeping.
Bangladesh Central Bank representative and Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes witnessed the turnover.
The money—46 bundles of $100 denominated notes and some loose bills—was placed in a large purple trolley bag.
On Thursday morning, Ferrer said Wong asked him to visit the AMLC to inform the council that he is officially turning over the $4.63 million.
“Today, Mr. Kim Wong kept his promise to the Senate blue ribbon committee to return the $4.63 million in his casino to the AMLC for later transmittal to the Bangladesh Central Bank,” the lawyer added.
He said he approached the AMLC officials that morning unannounced to ask about arrangements for the fund transfer.
“They did not know that I was coming today. I came over, and Executive Director Abad, with… officials of the BSP, listened to my request early [Thursday] morning and prepared all the security arrangements,” Ferrer added.
“The stature of the Philippines in the world community has been restored today, with the fund returned [without the courts’ intervention],” he said.
When he appeared at the Senate on Tuesday, Wong promised to return the money that was deposited with the Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila.
The amount was part of the $63 million that went to Solaire and Midas Hotel and Casino.
In his testimony, Wong admitted that he got P100 million in cash on February 5 and an additional P300 million and $5 million from February 10 to 14.
He, however, maintained that he did not know that the money was stolen.
Also on Thursday, the AMLC said it is completing a draft bill that will relax the decades-old bank secrecy law to combat money laundering in the country.
Dooc said the AMLC is ready to submit the draft bill to Congress “because the Senate blue ribbon committee has been harping on it.”
“We have to liberalize or relax the bank secrecy law because now it is clearly shown it is a deterrent or an obstacle in addressing money laundering offenses,” he told reporters.
“For instance, you have heard the bank secrecy law being invoked by resource persons invited by the Senate committee that frustrate the senators who are conducting the probe but most of all the public who wants to get to the bottom of this thing, including us, AMLC,” Dooc said, referring to the Senate hearing on the $81-million money-laundering scandal.
The draft bill seeks to shorten the reporting period for suspicious transactions from 10 days to five days.
“Because, remember, in this particular case, the deposit was received February 5 and plus 10 days, the funds were already withdrawn even before the reports were made,” Dooc said.
He added that the five days reporting period is doable with the help of technology.
“ You can use e-mail, and text messages are acceptable. We don’t need that 10-day period,” Dooc pointed out.
The commissioner said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has committed to certify the draft bill as urgent but the measure will be deliberated on during the 17th Congress.
Dooc added that the bill will strengthen the AMLC’s power to freeze accounts.
“I am very sure that we can come to an agreement with the massive support that we are now getting and the common interest from common stakeholders to fully strengthen the anti-money laundering unit,” he said.