Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III on Wednesday urged the government to intensify the hunt for the money launderers involved in the Bangladesh Bank heist so as to assist Dhaka in the refugee crisis it faces.
In a statement, Pimentel cited the influx of some 380,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing Bangladesh to escape alleged attacks by Myanmar government troops. He said Manila should “do everything in its power” to help Dhaka manage the wave of refugees.
“Thousands of Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh for safety, and the country’s resources will understandably be stretched as it helps deal with this humanitarian crisis. We must do anything and everything we can to help,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel urged the Department of Justice, the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to fast-track the pursuit against Philippine-based money launderers who had a hand in the heist. He said the money to be recovered from the crime would help the Bangladeshi government address the ongoing crisis.
“While $15 million out of the $81 million have been recovered and returned to the Bangladeshi government, we must not stop there and must continue to assist Bangladeshi authorities until the full amount is recovered because they need every cent,” the
Senate chief added.
In 2016 hackers attempted to breach the Bangladesh Bank account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and stole close to $1 billion. Five of the 35 transactions were wired to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) through a number of bogus accounts.
The funds were laundered through the casinos which, at the time, were beyond Republic Act (RA) 10927, or the anti-money laundering law. In July President Duterte signed into law amendments to RA 10927, to include casinos, as well as Internet- and ship-based gaming sites as covered institutions.
The heist prompted the BSP to impose a record-setting fine of P1 billion on RCBC. Pimentel said the recovery of the stolen Bangladesh Bank funds is, more than ever, urgent with the refugee crisis Bangladesh is facing.
Estimates by the United Nations cited more than 380,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh to escape violent treatment by the military in Myanmar.
The UN added the Bangladeshi government sorely needs funds to underwrite security and humanitarian aid to the refugees.