Bangladesh says Philippines President commits to return heist money funneled via Manila

Fri Aug 5, 2016 8:58am EDT
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By Krishna N. Das, Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has given a commitment that $81 million stolen by cyber criminals from the account of Bangladesh Bank in New York and funneled through bank accounts in Manila would be returned, the Bangladesh ambassador to the Philippines said on Friday.

A Bangladesh central bank team visiting Manila to recover the money said earlier on Friday that it was close to getting back $15 million of the loot frozen by the Philippines.

Cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank's account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February, and succeeded in transferring $81 million to four accounts at Manila's Rizal Commercial Banking Corp RCB.PS. The money was then laundered through the city's casinos, according to investigators.

Only about $18 million, including $2.7 million frozen by the Philippines' casino regulator, has been accounted for.

The Philippines' Department of Justice (DoJ) has asked the Bangladesh Bank delegation to file a legal document staking its claim to $15 million of that, but the casino money will have to be pursued separately, said two sources close to the visiting team.

"We are very hopeful that we will get the total $81 million," said Ambassador John Gomes, who is helping the bank representatives on a four-day visit to Manila ending Friday.

"The reason is I got a commitment from the president himself," he said.

He added Bangladesh's finance minister might come to the Philippines to meet Duterte to help in the recovery of the money.   Continued...

John Gomes, Bangladesh ambassador to the Philippines, walk towards the press conference inside the Bangladesh embassy in Makati city, metro Manila, Philippines August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco