Date
24 May 2017
As casinos are not covered under the Philippines' anti-money laundering law, authorities were hampered in a probe related to stolen funds from a Bangladesh bank. Photo: Reuters
As casinos are not covered under the Philippines' anti-money laundering law, authorities were hampered in a probe related to stolen funds from a Bangladesh bank. Photo: Reuters

Philippines probe into stolen Bangladesh bank funds goes nowhere

Philippines authorities haven’t made any headway in a money-laundering probe in connection with a cyber-heist that took place at Bangladesh’s central bank earlier this year, according to a report.

In February, unidentified hackers stole US$81 million from Bangladesh Bank and laundered most of the money through a bank and casinos in the Philippines.

More than three months after the incident, authorities in the Philippines haven’t made any arrests, with the investigation appearing to have stalled, Reuters reported.

Official and private investigators were quoted as saying that the money trail has gone cold. 

One of the key reasons is that casinos are not covered under the Philippines’ anti-money laundering law, which means they are not obliged to report suspicious transactions or the players involved.

Also hindering investigators are antiquated bank secrecy laws that are among the strictest in the world, the report said. 

In the Bangladesh heist, hackers tried to make 35 transfers of money, worth a total US$951 million, from the central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

All but one of the attempted transfers involved were to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in the Philippines.

Most were blocked, but US$81 million went to accounts at a single branch in Manila.

A Philippines’ Senate inquiry heard from those who handled the money that most of it then went to casinos and casino agents in the Philippines, including junket operators, through a remittance agency.

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