Philippines Court Lifts Freeze on Funds of Chinese Junket

An appeal from the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was rejected by the Court of Appeals in the Philippines after the court confirmed its own decision on April 29 to lift the asset preservation order (APO) against a Chinese casino operator that has operations in the Philippines, which was issued in connection with the cyber money heist that saw $81 million being stolen from the Bangladesh central bank back in 2016.

Manila City Regional Trial Court Issued APOs Against Chinese Casino Operator  

In 2016 hackers stole the whopping amount of $81 million from the bank account of the Bangladesh central bank in Federal Reserve Bank of New York Bank through fraudulent actions executed via the SWIFT payment system. The stolen money was transferred to accounts at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), which is based in the Philippines. The accounts belonged to various companies and individuals, including casino junket operator Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd with owner Kam Sin Wong.

Allegedly the accounts were created in order to receive the stolen funds from the Bangladesh central bank and, therefore, a Manila City Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued an APO against them in order to freeze the funds until the investigation of the theft showed some results.

APO Lifted Three Times

In October 2019, resulting from a plea from Eastern Hawaii Leisure owner Kam Sin Wong, Qiaoqiao Wendy Wang and Dong Na Xu, the RTC lifted the APOs on their accounts as there was no evidence that they were involved in the cyber money heist of the funds from Bangladesh. On April 29, 2022, this decision was reaffirmed by the Philippines Court of Appeals.

The AMLC appealed the decision, which the Court of Appeals again confirmed on August 2 pointing out that the AMLC did not present any new evidence in favor of their case. Wong’s company handed to the AMLC the amount of $4.63 million as they were part of the stolen funds, however, the AMLC failed to prove that the bank accounts of Eastern Hawaii Leisure and its owner were created in connection with the cyber theft from Bangladesh.

The bank accounts were actually opened much earlier than the cyber fraud leading to the theft. The Philippines Court of Appeals also pointed out that the case is still not resolved in court, which means that there is only “probable cause” for the issued APOs.

Unfortunately, from the $81 million that entered the Philippines financial system only a fraction has been recovered and returned to the central bank of Bangladesh.

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