Chinese man in Manila given millions from Bangladesh heist, says Sen. Guingona

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(File photo)

(Reuters) — More than $30 million of the money hackers stole from the Bangladesh central bank's account at the New York Fed was handed over in cash to an ethnic Chinese man in Manila, said Sen. Teofisto Guingona, head of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Tuesday (March 15).

The cash deliveries over several days from a foreign exchange broker were made up of 600 million pesos ($12.87 million) and around $18 million, which altogether would have meant a haul of at least 780,000 banknotes.

"Obviously this is not one bang, it was done in installments," Guingona told Reuters ahead of a panel hearing on the case that is due to open later on Tuesday.

The details he gave shine a partial light on the money trail after last month's cyber-heist of Bangladesh Bank's account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which netted hackers more than $80 million.

The hackers tried to withdraw about $951 million from the account but the other transactions were blocked after a typo in one of the instructions raised red flags.

Bangladesh Bank suspects the money that was transferred out was sent to the Philippines in four tranches and, once there, was diverted to casinos. It has said it is working with the anti-money laundering authorities in the Philippines to recover the funds.

Bangladesh Bank officials say the money may have ended up in Hong Kong, but have not given any details.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) said last week it was investigating an $81 million deposit at one of its branches.

Guingona said the transfers into RCBC were consolidated into one account and some of the money was converted to pesos.

CCTV cameras at the branch were not operating when the money was withdrawn, he said, but investigations have shown that it then went via a foreign exchange broker called Philrem Service Corp. to the Chinese man and two casinos.

It was not immediately clear if the man was of mainland Chinese or Taiwanese nationality, Guingona said.

Philrem Service Corp. declined to comment on the matter. A spokesman for RCBC said he could not immediately comment on the CCTV cameras at the branch.

The senator said $29 million ended up in an account of Solaire, a casino resort owned and operated by Bloombery Resorts Corp. Bloombery is controlled by Enrique Razon, the Philippines' fifth-richest man in 2015, according to Forbes.

"We really don't comment on issues that are currently under investigation," Solaire Corporate Communications Head Nana Soriano said.

Senator Guingona said a further $21 million went to an account of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co., a gaming firm in northern Philippines. Reuters tried several phone numbers to seek comment from Eastern Hawaii officials but was unable to reach any.

State prosecutors said a complaint has been lodged by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) against the manager of the RCBC branch and the holders of the dollar accounts in her bank into which the money was originally deposited.

An AMLC official told Reuters on Tuesday that more people were likely to be named.

The branch manager, Maia Santos-Deguito, has denied any wrongdoing and in an interview with the local ANC TV channel said she was being used as a scapegoat.

Guingona said that because casinos are not covered by the country's anti-money laundering laws it was not clear if the stolen funds could be recovered.

"The paper trail ends there. That is the problem," he said. "Right now we are at a dead end."