Date
22 October 2017
John Gomes gestures during an anti-money laundering hearing in Manila. Gomes expressed concern that the end of a senate hearing will hinder the recovery of the stolen funds. Photo:  Reuters
John Gomes gestures during an anti-money laundering hearing in Manila. Gomes expressed concern that the end of a senate hearing will hinder the recovery of the stolen funds. Photo: Reuters

Philippines senate ends probe into Bangladesh cyber heist

Philippine senators have wrapped up their investigation into the laundering of US$81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank.

The two senators who led the probe lost their re-election campaigns.

The decision to end the inquiry comes despite apparent progress in the investigation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It included the return of US$15 million by casino junket operator Kim Wong to the Philippine anti-money laundering watchdog.

Wong had received part of the US$81 million that was transferred into accounts under fictitious names in a Philippine bank, and eventually to casinos.

Senators were still working to find where another US$17 million eventually ended up.

Wong faces a criminal complaint for allegedly violating laws against money laundering. He has denied doing anything illegal, saying he didn’t know the money was stolen.

He has said he returned the funds to show his innocence.

John Gomes, Bangladesh’s ambassador to the Philippines, expressed concern that end of the senate hearings would hinder his government’s progress in recovering the stolen funds.

“What happens now that the senate is concluding its hearings?” said Gomes, who is still waiting for the Philippine legal process to be completed before Bangladesh can receive the US$15 million in recovered funds.

“This is the only place where we could come and hear about these’’ things.

In February, around US$100 million went missing from Bangladesh’s account at the New York Federal Reserve. Authorities are still piecing together what happened. 

After Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Teofisto Guingona, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that is investigating the alleged money laundering, told Gomes in front of a group of reporters that Philippine government agencies would pursue the investigation and eventual criminal prosecution of suspects.

Sen. Guingona said the committee members no longer have time to pursue the hearings, especially starting next week when Congress starts to canvass the votes for president and vice president.

His term and that of Sen. Sergio Osmena, head of the committee on banks, end on June 30, giving them little time to prepare the report that will be submitted to the senate.

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RA

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