2 Chinese named as ‘masterminds’, Philrem & RCBC manager accomplices in Bangladesh Bank money-laundering case

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CASINO JUNKET OPERATOR Kam Sin Wong (a.k.a Kim Wong) most recently revealed that two Chinese nationals, one of them a known casino junket agent and high roller, allegedly brought the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh Bank into the country in cahoots with dismissed RCBC Jupiter Branch Manager Maia Santos-Deguito and remittance firm Philrem Service Corporation.

Testifying in the third senate hearing on money laundering in Philippine banks and casinos, Wong named the Chinese nationals as Shuhua Gao, a junket agent from Beijing, China, who has been in and out of the country for the past eight years, and Zhize Ding, a businessman from Macau. He pointed to the two as the big players in the cyber bank heist and the laundering of money through RCBC and the casinos.

Wong earlier said he would just put the names of the supposed “masterminds” in a sealed envelope that he would submit to authorities. But upon prodding from Enrile, he was compelled to divulge their identities at the Senate hearing,

Wong also identified Deguito as the one who opened the five bank accounts under fictitious names to which the $81 million funds were channeled. He said it was also Deguito who facilitated the release from her branch of the stolen funds which later found its way in casinos at Solaire and Midas, with the help of PhilRem.

Deguito previously testified before the Senate panel chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona that four of the said accounts was referred to her by Wong. She admitted facilitating the dollar accounts under the names of Michael Cruz, Jessie Lagrosas, Alfred Vergara and Enrico Vaquez.

The total amount of $81 million was deposited in their accounts last February 5 after an initial deposit of $500 in each account.

The stolen money, remitted in five branches, was later on consolidated in an account under the name of businessman William So Go.

In the first Senate hearing, Go testified he never opened such an account at the Jupiter branch and has never even set foot in that bank.

Go also told senators that Deguito met with him at a restaurant in Global City, Taguig, and admitted she had opened a dollar account under his name, and then offered him PHP 10 million for his silence.

He reiterated that his signatures on the opening forms in the bank account and withdrawal slips were forged.

All the funds that were credited into Go’s account were later transferred to the account of PhilRem, maintained at RCBC-Unimart Greenhills.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III demanded anew for PhilRem’s records of the amount it earned from the $81 million transaction.

“It seems that PhilRem has a starring role here,” noted Sotto. He downplayed the statement of PhilRem President Salud Bautista that they are not a major player in this irregular and anomalous transaction.

“All these funds passed through you,” added Sotto as he taunted the PhilRem president for saying they have no provision to identify a laundered transaction.

Under questioning by Guingona, Wong strongly denied referring the four account holders to Deguito, insisting that he only introduced Gao to Deguito as he owed him PHP 450 million from casino losses at Solaire.

He said Deguito tried to convince him to open an account in the country. He told her he has a “major player” (in the casino), indebted to him, who wanted to open an account.

He said Deguito, along with three companions, went to his office at Midas Hotel in Pasay City sometime in May 2015. But it was only Deguito who entered his office. He was then with Gao.

When Gao said he was interested in opening a dollar account to facilitate the transfer of money for his casino operations, Wong recalled Deguito replied “I’ll take charge of this.”

He remembered Deguito also told Gao she needs her cooperation. “Maia also said she needs five persons to make a corporation.”

He said Gao even complained about the difficulty of opening an account, but Deguito assured the Chinese national that she would take care of everything.

After two or three days, Wong said Deguito called Gao asking for $2,500 to open the five dollar accounts.

On February 5, Wong said Deguito called him several times the whole day to inform him about the receipt of $81 million — in five branches consisting of $6 million, $25 million, $30 million and $20 million — in the four accounts.

Wong then requested that a part of the money be sent to Gao at the Solaire Casino, to which Deguito complied by delivering PHP 100 million in cash.

He presented to the committee a CCTV photo of Deguito’s vehicle entering Solaire that night to deliver PHP 100 million converted from the dollar account by PhilRem and his own photo of the cash being delivered to the casino. He then got a total of $5 million and PHP 300 million from the house of PhilRem executive Michael Bautista.

Wong said that he got PHP 100M in cash and $3M from Bautista at the latter’s house on February 9, another PHP 100M and $2M on February 10 and PHP 100 million more on February 14.

Of the total $81 million stolen funds that were deposited and withdrawn from Deguito’s RCBC branch, Wong said about $63 million went to Midas and Solaire casinos. He said the balance of more or less $17 million, “as far as I know, is with Philrem.”

The casino junket operator, also president and general manager of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd., also cleared RCBC president on-leave Lorenzo Tan of any involvement in the scam as alleged by Deguito.

When asked by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to comment on Deguito’s previous testimony that Tan told her to take good care of Wong, Wong said this was not true.

Tan’s counsel Francis Lim said that Wong’s expose against Deguito and PhilRem and his statement clearing Tan of any involvement in the money laundering scheme proves that Deguito had unduly dragged Tan in this controversy in a “shrewd design” to muddle the issues in the ongoing Senate investigation and “obscure her role as a principal player” in this heist.

“It vindicates our position that Ms. Deguito maliciously dragged Mr. Tan into the fray in a shrewd design to muddle the issues before the Senate and confuse the public to obscure her role as a principal player in this money-laundering scheme,” Lim further stated.

Meanwhile, Solaire’s counsel Benny Tan told the senators they have frozen the account of a certain “Mr. Ding” who was implicated by Wong in the $81 million bank heist. The amount accounted for Ding and his group was pegged at PHP 107, 350,602 in chips.

He testified that Solaire also confiscated various denominations of cash from their rooms, amounting to PHP 1,347,069. “We are committed to hold these and comply with whatever court order would apply.”
Wong said around $4.63 million is still in Solaire for safekeeping and he is willing to surrender the money to authorities.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of the Department of Justice prosecutorial arm said it would summon Wong and Weikang Xu, another junket operator, as part of its investigation into the money laundering scam.

He said the complaint filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) last week against Wong and Xu would undergo preliminary investigation. The case has been consolidated with a similar complaint earlier filed by the AMLC against Deguito and four account holders — Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara, and Enrico Vasquez.

Earlier, the Justice Department summoned Deguito to a preliminary investigation set for April 12 and 19. He said separate subpoena would be issued in the next few days requiring Wong and Xu to appear before the prosecutor and answer the charges of money laundering under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

In its complaint, the AMLC alleged that about $21.6 million of the laundered amount went to Wong while some $59.2 million to Xu.

The AMLC earlier filed a similar case against Deguito and four other respondents. (MCA)