What appears to be the single largest money laundering crime in the history of the Philippines is being investigated by financial regulators there, according to local media. Apparently $100 million was introduced into the country’s banking system, sold to an underground foreign exchange broker, then transferred into three or more local casinos, bought back by the money broker, and then transferred back out to accounts overseas in a short period of time.
According to the Inquirer, the funds originally came from cyber-criminals hacking overseas accounts, possibly in Bangladesh. The hackers were based in China according the news outlet’s anonymous sources cited as including, “at least three ranking government officials and four other bankers,” the outlet claimed.
An investigation is ongoing by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said the Inquirer who stated they sat on their story after confirmation so that law enforcement could continue their probe in secret and take action.
Reportedly the funds initially entered the Philippine financial system at a Makati City branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and were exchanged for pesos and went into a Chinese-Filipino junket operator’s account. The bank immediately filed a suspicious transaction report with AMLC. A report was also made to the Philippines Central Bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
As there are some conflicting reports it is not clear whether the funds are still in play by a Macau client at one or more of the casinos or if they were indeed moved back overseas. It is also not clear how or if the junket operator is connected to the hackers, if that is indeed the source of the illicit funds.
The investigation is ongoing. This or another article will be updated as more sources confirm, clarify, or deny local media reports. The casinos and other financial institutions allegedly involved will be identified at that time.