Philippine justice department finishes probe on $15m of $81m Bangladesh Bank heist money

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) of the Philippines has wrapped up its preliminary investigation on money laundering charges connected to the high-profile $81 million cyber heist at the Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reports Daily Inquirer.

The Filipino newspaper reported that Assistant State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamara on Thursday concluded the probe on three consolidated complaints after four months of hearings.

The complaints filed by the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) were against former Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and four others, casino junket operators Kam Sin Wong alias Kim Wong and Weikang Xu and executives of the remittance firm Philrem Service Corp.

Pacamarra said a resolution may be issued later this month, reported the Inquirer.

The pending cases at the DOJ cover $15 million of the $81 million funds stolen in February in the world’s largest known cyber bank heist.

Aside from that, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp has managed to recover $2.7 million until now. Total $63 million more of the stolen money remain missing.

Bangladeshi officials are still pursuing that.

Unknown hackers tried to steal nearly $1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank’s account at the New York Fed between Feb 4 and Feb 5, and succeeded in transferring $81 million to four accounts at the RCBC branch in Manila.

The stolen funds then ended up in casinos which are not covered by the anti-money laundering law.

Maia Deguito, who was the manager of the RCBC branch where the accounts were opened, had helped arrange the deposit and withdrawal of the money. But she has said she was only following orders from her superiors and has denied wrongdoing.

She was later fired and sued. Then the Philippine central bank earlier this month fined RCBC a record 1 billion pesos ($21 million).

Bangladeshi officials say the money was could disappear into the casino industry because of systemic failures at RCBC, not just because of individual errors committed by some of its officers.

Along with Deguito, the other respondents had submitted their counter-affidavits, denying allegations of money laundering, said the Inquirer report.

The report said they also claimed that the hacking had not taken place in the Philippines, which goes against the principle of ‘territoriality’ in the country’s criminal law, meaning the alleged crime should have happened there.

Last week, a Bangladesh Bank report said the $15 million would be returned to Bangladesh ‘soon’ after an order from a Philippines court.

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