Bank heist puts Philippines financial system at risk, says central bank

The Philippines’ financial system is facing a risk because of the US$81 million that was stolen by hackers from the New York Fed account of Bangladesh’s central bank and then transferred to Manila, the country’s central bank governor said today.

“If you look at the behaviour of the financial markets over the last several days there has been no indication that there is a negative impact. But we have to recognise there is a risk,” Amando Tetangco told reporters.

A public hearing in the Philippines’ Senate was told this week that the money stolen from the US Federal Reserve account was wired to a Manila branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC).

The money was passed on to a foreign exchange broker, which transferred some US$30 million in cash to an ethnic Chinese man who is believed to be a casino junket operator and the rest into accounts at two casino companies, officials told the Senate’s anti-corruption committee.

Tetangco said he believed it was the first case of cross-border money-laundering in the Philippines and vowed to address loopholes in local laws to prevent such cases recurring.

“We will be working with the government and Congress again to further enhance and cover possible loopholes,” he said.

The governor, who is also chairperson of the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council, said the agency has been working with legislators to extend the ambit of the anti-money-laundering law to more entities, including casinos and real estate dealers.

“This is an opportune time to take a look at this and really make a decision consistent with our desire as a sovereign nation to strengthen the anti-money-laundering framework, the counter-terrorism framework in the country, so we don’t become a centre for money-laundering,” he said.

- Reuters

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