Casino agent in Philippines says high-rollers brought in heist money

Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:20pm EDT
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By Karen Lema and Andrew R.C. Marshall

MANILA (Reuters) - A Chinese junket operator in Manila said on Tuesday that two high-rollers from Beijing and Macau were responsible for bringing $81 million stolen by hackers from Bangladesh's central bank into the Philippines.

Kim Wong, a long-time Chinese resident of the Philippines, denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of who masterminded one of world's biggest cyber heists, but vowed to give back a small portion of the money with him.

He told a Senate hearing in Manila he would return $4.63 million in cash to a government watchdog investigating what appears to be a Byzantine money-laundering scheme.

Unidentified hackers infiltrated the computer systems of Bangladesh Bank in early February and tried to steal $951 million from an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York it uses for international settlements.

Many attempted transfers were blocked, but $81 million ended up in casinos in Manila and with junket operators, and most of it vanished.

Finding out where it went has sorely challenged the Senate hearing, now on its third day and already hamstrung by the country's strict banking secrecy and by casinos not covered by anti-money laundering laws. Wong denied any involvement in the heist, but named two Chinese men from Beijing and Macau who he said "brought in" the $81 million.

"I have nothing to do with the forging of bank documents for the $81 million. I don't know the source of the $81 million," he said.

One billion pesos ($21 million) of the stolen funds ended up in a Philippine bank account of Eastern Hawaii, a company run by Wong, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).   Continued...

Lorenzo Tan, president and chief executive officer of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), gestures while answering questions during the money laundering hearing at Senate in Manila March 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco