Financial regulators in the Philippines have been investigating a money laundering scam that covers a grand total of $100 million brought into the country by illegal means. The money was brought into the country’s banking system, transferred to a black market forex broker, shuttled between three local casinos and then finally moved overseas.
It is believed that the illicit amount is the result of funds stolen by computer hackers from the account of an overseas bank that is reportedly situated in Bangladesh. According to governmentofficials in the Philippines, the Bangladeshi bank had reported earlier that funds were missing and it looks like those funds could have been washed in the Philippines.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) issued a statement that the ongoing investigation has revealed that the laundering activity could be of greater proportions. Top ranking officials at the AMLC also claimed that the modus operandi of the group as well as the involvement of other parties will be revealed in the course of the investigation.
The scam is reported to have infiltrated the Philippine financial system beginning with a transaction between foreign exchange broker Philrem and a representative of the Makati City branch of Rizal Commercial banking Corp. Subsequently, the currency was traced to the account of a Chinese-Filipino who is also a junket operator.
This junket operator is known to have contact with local casinos and a wide network of gamblers. Following this, a suspicious transaction report was filed by the bank with AMLC which promoted the authorities to launch an investigation. The foreign counterpart of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is also reported to have sent a warning note regarding the suspicious transaction.
Banking and gaming industry sources claim that the funds belong to a Macau-based client and went through the money laundering process at three casinos in the Philippines where the money was used to pay for losses incurred by the casino and also to buy casino chips. The three casinos that were used for money laundering are the Solaire Resort and Casino, City of Dreams Manila and the Midas Hotel and Casino.
The financial institutions involved include the Philippine National Bank, where the Chinese-Filipino junket operator is a client, and Banco De Oro Universal Bank (BDO). Officials add that BDO may not continue to feature in the investigation as its role was limited to transmitting 1.5 million dollars to a foreign exchange broker Philrem, which is considered a routine affair.
Investigators are now attempting to trace how an amount of such proportions were accepted by the banks in question without verifying the customer’s source of income.