When mystery hackers launched a stunning raid on Bangladesh’s foreign reserves, a plot worthy of a John le Carre spy novel was sparked in the Philippines, exposing the Southeast Asian nation as a dirty money haven.
The $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank’s American accounts last month was immediately sent via electronic transfer to the Philippines’ RCBC bank, with the thieves deliberately targeting their laundering location.
The Philippines has some of the world’s strictest bank secrecy laws to protect account holders, while its casinos are exempt from rules altogether aimed at preventing money laundering.
“The Philippines is very attractive (for dirty money) because our laws have gaping holes. It’s easy to launder money here,” Senator Sergio Osmena, who is pushing for stronger anti-money laundering laws, said.
Still, if the thieves were to get away with their audacious heist, the money had to be moved quickly through the banking system and into the casinos.
And it did.
Authorities took four days to order a recall of the money.
But by then it had vanished — leaving in its place a tale of death threats, bribes, shady business figures and a bank manager who could be the villain or a victim.
“I did not do anything wrong. If this is a nightmare, I want to wake up now,” the manager of RCBC bank, Maia Deguito, told ABS-CBN television this week after authorities stopped her at Manila airport from trying to leave the country.
“I live every day in fear,” she said. Read More