The investigation into the theft and laundering of approximately $81 million from the bank account of the Bangladesh central bank at the Federal Reserve in New York was ended on Thursday by the Philippine Senate as the two senators leading the probe lost their re-election bids and won’t have time to maintain the investigation prior to their terms ending, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Despite the apparent progress being made in the investigation, in which Chinese casino boss and junket operator in the Philippines, Kim Wong, handed over $15 million to the Anti-Money-Laundering Council, the decision was made to end the inquiry. Wong received almost $35 million in total through his casino company and the foreign exchange broker, Philrem. Work was still being done by the senators to account for the other $17 million. Wong now faces a criminal complaint of the alleged violation of laws against money laundering. He denies any wrongdoing and says that he had no knowledge that the money was stolen and to show his innocence has returned the funds.
Bangladesh’s ambassador to the Philippines, John Gomes, is concerned that the termination of the Senate hearing would impede the progress of recovering the stolen funds by his government. In front of a group of reporters after the meeting on Thursday, Gomes was told by Sen. Teofisto Guingona, chairman of the investigating committee, that the inquiry and eventual prosecution of the guilty parties would be pursued by Philippine government agencies. Sen. Guingona said the public hearings were a clear demonstration of the error by Congress in deciding to exempt casinos from the scope of the Anti-Money-Laundering Law in 2013 when it was last amended.
Meanwhile, recommendations for administrative sanctions are being completed by the bank against those found responsible in the money laundering case, according to Nestor Espenilla, the deputy governor of the central bank. Those liable include staff and executives of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., the Philippines–based lender where the bogus accounts were created with fictitious names. An investigation has been conducted by the lender, as well and so far has led to the firing of the bank manager of the particular branch were the accounts originated and several other employees.