AMLC to Bangladesh envoy: Funds turnover will take 3 to 6 months
THE Senate blue ribbon committee terminated its investigation on Thursday into the alleged $81 million money laundering scheme with a plea from the envoy of Bangladesh to immediately return the money that had already been recovered by the Philippine government.
Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes said it would be a slap in his face if he could not bring back to his country the money that had already been surrendered to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) by businessman Kim Wong, owner of Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company.
After all, Gomes said the government through the AMLC had promised to immediately transmit to Bangladesh the $15 million that Wong had turned over for “safekeeping” once it secures a decision from the court.
But AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad told the committee that the court proceedings could still take three months to six months due to opposition from Wong’s camp.
“Barring any substantial opposition with the petition that we have filed, your honor, this will not take that long, your honor. We hope to get a decision in three to five months’ time, your honor,” Abad said, responding to queries of Sen. Bam Aquino.
“That’s still quiet long…,” said Aquino.
But Wong’s lawyer, who was present in the hearing, explained that what they filed was just a clarification that the money did not belong to his client but to a certain Shuhua Gao, one of the two junket agents identified during the hearing as the ones who allegedly brought the stolen funds to the Philippines.
Gomes expressed dismay that the recovery of the stolen funds would still take months.
“It would be wrong to now say that there is an obstacle in getting that money back to Bangladesh. We have been told from the very beginning that this money will be soon transmitted to Bangladesh through forfeiture of cases,” he said.
Since Bangladesh is the only claimant to the money, the ambassador said the court could immediately decide in favor of its return to his country.
“So it’s my request whatever commitment given to us, whatever papers we signed for the receipt of money, whatever Kim Wong told he would return the money to Bangladesh because its Bangladesh money so it’s our request that this should be followed through,” he said.
“And if it’s three to four months then I think it’s too long. I think it was in March that payment instructions were given and we are about to conclude the month of May. And we are talking about another three months? I think it’s going to be very long…”
While recognizing the Philippine legal system, Gomes said the delay in the recovery of stolen funds “would be like a slap on my face.”
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the committee, assured the ambassador that the executive branch will continue its recovery process even after the Senate has terminated its probe.
Abad, for her part, appealed for a “little patience” and understanding from the government of Bangladesh.
“Much as we’d want to accomplish everything…we’re governed by laws and rules, your honor. All the remedies and procedures are provided for by the rules of the court and by the laws, so we have to abide by what the laws and rules provide, your honor,” she said.
“So we just have to go through the process, your honor. I think we should have to be a little patient. As I’ve said earlier, your honor, we’re doing everything to provide all the necessary assistance to the Bangladesh government to recover the stolen money. We are just requesting some understanding from the Bangladesh government, your honor, for us to go through the process,” Abad added./rga
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