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Duterte to 'do whatever it takes' to return $81 million —Bangladesh envoy

Bangladeshi Ambassador John Gomes on Thursday said President Duterte has assured him that the Philippines will “do whatever it takes” to hasten the recovery of the $81 million laundered funds which found its way to the country.

“He has expressed to me personally, he said that he will do whatever it takes (to hasten the recovery of the $81 million),” Gomes said in a media roundtable on the $81 million money laundering scheme in Makati City.

Gomes asked assistance on the matter from Duterte when they met last June 4, the day Duterte celebrated his landslide victory in the presidential race in May.

“I have a very big request. Of course, through the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) that the newly-elected President would be visiting Bangladesh. He said yes, definitely he would look forward to that,” he said.

Still unidentified hackers supposedly stole some $81 million from the account of the Bangladesh Bank at the New York Federal Reserve Bank in New York, which was then transferred to accounts under the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.’s (RCBC) Jupiter branch in Makati.

The Philippine Senate, through its Blue Ribbon Committee, has already conducted seven hearings on the matter with the last one on May 17 as it had to be cut short due to the change in the Senate composition following the national elections. 

The Senate hearings revealed that while majority of the funds have already been traced, some $17 million still remains to be unaccounted for.

Still, Gomes said that Bangladesh is “very optimistic” that the whole $81 million will be returned to the country but noted that this may take a while.

“I don’t believe that this money is not recoverable because the Senate... they were able to identify where is the money. We have to leave it to the government to recover the amount also as they have done the $15 million,” he said, but noted that “it will take some time.”

He was referring to the $15 million surrendered by casino junket operator Kam Sin “Kim” Wong to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) after being found to be part of the dirty money. Wong said he received the funds supposedly as payment of debts, and investments.

Gomes said that this, along with $2.75 million which has been frozen by Solaire Resort and Casino, is set to be returned to Bangladesh “very, very soon.”

Gomes has also spoken with senators to renew the probe on the matter

“I am very confident that we should be having another hearing when we know who is the next Senate President and who is the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee,” he said.

Aside from this, Gomes also met with officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) who have all assured him that investigations are ongoing regarding the matter. —JST, GMA News