Bam on the $81M Hearing: Nakakahiya sa Bangladesh

Transcript of the Ambush Interview after the Senate Hearing


Q: There seems to be growing frustration on your end. You’re the only Senator before Sen. Koko Pimentel spoke that really focused your attention on how to get the money back. It’s all about trying to dissect what happened and who is involved but to you, it’s really about getting the Bangladeshi people’s money back.

Sen. Bam Aquino:

That’s right. In fact, in all of the hearings, the ambassador of Bangladesh is there. To be frank, nakakahiya that we talk about everything but we’re not talking enough about how to get them the 81-million US dollars back.


I don’t think the previous hearings were able to cover where exactly the money is currently. Earlier, we found out that there is discrepancy in the testimony of Kim Wong and Philrem on the cash that was given out.


At the same time, we found out that some of the money was actually still in the casinos through their junket operators. We’re hoping to get to the bottom of this and if we can actually get that money back for Bangladesh.


Q: What’s your reaction to what the AMLC said about getting information before they file a freeze order to the court of appeals? Isn’t that putting a lot of layers to the bureaucracy when at this minute we have Kim Wong saying I can just give you the money and bring it to the BSP for safe keeping.


Sen. Bam Aquino:

Exactly. Many of these questions have not been asked and I understand that the focus would be the Filipino actors who were part of this scam. But I think, first and foremost, we should focus on securing the money, making sure it’s intact, and giving it back to the people of Bangladesh.


Can you imagine if that happened to the Philippines, if 81-million dollars of our money was stolen elsewhere? The first thing we would want to ensure is that it gets back to our own treasury.


I think the minimum that we need to do is to go through AMLC, go through the motion, and ensure that whatever money is found is held and eventually returned to Bangladesh.


Q: Do you feel that we have the moral obligation not only to investigate the matter but really return the money to the Bangladeshi people?


Sen. Bam Aquino:

Yes, yes. Definitely. And hopefully everyone will cooperate. If Eastern Hawaii through Kim Wong is willing to cooperate, that’s great.


Hopefully, we get to the bottom of how much cash was given out because currently it’s a contradictory story of how much was encashed and how much was given to Kim Wong and Weikang Xu.


If there is Bangladesh money in our casinos then maybe our casinos can also cooperate and be willing to return the money without going through a lengthy court procedure. AMLC said it is within the powers of the current laws to get the money and eventually file civil forfeiture cases against those involved.


But I hope we don’t reach that. If the money is still there and if it can still be returned, we should return it at the soonest possible time.


Q: We’ve already proven that the bank accounts are fictitious so what is there for the bank secrecy law to protect?


Sen. Bam Aquino:

Exactly. That was the subject of the first part of the hearing and Sen. Osmena was very frustrated with the answers given to him regarding the bank secrecy law specially considering that these are fictitious accounts and, more or less, it has been established that the money came from a theft or a heist.


So the Senate lawyers are looking into this further. Of course, it’s the position of the bank right now that even if it’s fictitious, you can’t disclose any of these amounts but definitely the committee and our offices are looking into this further.


Q: 3rd day of the hearing, who are you most likely to believe at this point?


Well, we don’t want to pre-judge. We’re often accused of pre-judging everyone. But if you listen to the hearings, it’s becoming clear that this could not have been perpetrated by just one person.


I don’t want to talk about guilt or innocence at this point but definitely you need a lot more people and a lot of moving parts to get this to happen. Whether they’re guilty of theft, money laundering, or negligence, that’s something we will uncover in the next few hearings. And AMLC is doing a parallel process to go after the people who perpetrated this crime.

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