Philippines asks for Bangladesh help on bank heist investigation

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has asked Bangladesh to share the results of its probe into the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist, in a bid to speed up the recovery of the stolen funds. 

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in a statement on Sunday, December 4, that he and other government officials "strongly recommended" that Bangladesh share with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) the results of its investigation into the Bangladesh Bank fund heist, of which laundered money ended up in the Philippines.

Bangladesh Bank's stolen millions were coursed through Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), deposited to "fake" bank accounts, and then converted into pesos.

The converted funds were then delivered in cash tranches to a certain Weikang Xu by remittance firm PhilRem Service Corporation and then transferred to 3 large casinos. (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)

Philippine government officials met with Bangladeshi officials last week to discuss the recovery of the remaining $66-million laundered funds.

During the meeting, Dominguez said the Bangladeshi delegation thanked the Philippine government for helping bring back at least $15 million of the $81 million in funds stolen by unknown hackers from Bangladesh Bank.

"We'd like to express our [gratitude] and thankfulness for their efforts which has led to the recovery of the $15 million," Anisul Huq, the minister of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, said during the meeting last Tuesday.

Help us, too

During the meeting, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla asked the Bangladesh officials to give the BSP a copy of the full report on their investigation to strengthen the Philippine government's position in court proceedings that aim to retrieve the rest of the stolen funds.

"We are pursuing the lawsuits on your behalf, actually, as vigorously as we can," he added. (READ: TIMELINE: Tracing the $81-million stolen fund from Bangladesh Bank)

Dominguez assured the delegation that it would continue to investigate the matter by following the processes required under Philippine laws.

Former Philippine senators who helped probed into the heist cited the country's "strict bank secrecy and weak Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)" as hindrances to conducting a meaningful probe.

The Bangladesh officials, in response, said progress has been made in the investigation and that they would keep the Philippine government updated. –