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Bangladesh Bank Heist: Casino Owner Gets His Accounts Unfrozen

The Philippines Court of Appeals upheld an order to unfreeze the bank accounts of a Chinese Filipino casino owner implicated in the Bangladesh Bank robbery of 2016.

Kim Wong is the owner of the Eastern Hawaii casino resort in the Cagayan economic zone in the far northern Philippines. PhilRem, a local foreign currency brokerage business used for remittances, sent US$21 million to an account owned by Wong in February 2016.

The funds were part of the US$101 million that hackers took from the account of the Bangladesh Bank at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

How the Robbery Took Place

The hackers infected the Bangladesh Bank's servers with malware. This allowed them to gain credentials to authorise 35 requests for transfers totaling over $1 billion from the New York Fed to accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Five of the thirty-five payments were completed before someone at the New York Fed smelt a rat and halted the other transactions.

Approximately $20 million ended up in Sri Lanka and was retrieved swiftly. The remainder was moved to four accounts at the RCBC bank in the Philippines. The accounts were created under fictitious identities on the same day.

The funds were aggregated at RCBC into a single account and sent to PhilRem. From there, $21 million was sent to Wong, $29 million to Bloomberry Resorts' Solaire resort in Manila, and $31 million to an unknown destination for a mysterious gambler called Weikang Xu.

Wong told a Philippine Senate tribunal that two high-rolling junket brokers, Gao Shuhua and Ding Zhize, who are also unknown, advised him to expect the money.

He said that the two individuals owed him $10 million in gaming debts. Gao and Ding's remaining junket clients received the remaining $11 million. The panel exonerated Wong, and he has returned $15 million to the Bangladesh Bank.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court's decision this week. This court found no evidence that Wong collaborated with PhilRem to conduct a crime or had prior knowledge that the money sent by PhilRem belonged to the Bangladesh Bank.

The complainant in the lawsuit was the Anti-Money Laundering Council of the Philippines (AMLC).

What Became to the Rest?

The casino transformed the funds transferred to Solaire into chips for Gao, Ding, and Xu and washed them at its high-stakes baccarat tables. This has not been retrieved.

Philippine officials suspect that Gao and Ding created the phoney RCBC bank accounts with the assistance of branch manager Deguito, the sole person convicted in the case. For money laundering, she is presently serving a seven-year term. Wong was there when the accounts were opened, but he asserts that he was only serving as an interpreter for Gao and Ding.

US and UN officials suspect a North Korean hacker group was responsible for the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures.

The Bangladesh Bank has filed a legal complaint against 17 businesses and people in New York to recover the lost funds. Wong, Bloomberry, PhilRem, RCBC, and numerous important members of its management are among those mentioned.



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