Bangladesh presses Duterte on return of stolen millions

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2016 06:40 PM | Updated as of Aug 05 2016 07:01 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte addresses Congress for the first time on July 25, 2016. Reuters

MANILA – Bangladesh is counting on President Rodrigo Duterte to recover $81 million that was stolen from its foreign reserves and laundered in the Philippines, the impoverished South Asian nation’s envoy said Friday.

A high-level delegation led by Bangladesh’s finance minister and attorney-general will arrive in Manila in September to seek a meeting with Duterte, who assumed office four months after the daring cyber-heist.

A team from Bangladesh met with Philippine officials this week and received an assurance of government assistance from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre that government would help them recover the money, Ambassador John Gomes said.

“This is the first time we have received any statement from the government of the Philippines. We are grateful to the new Philippine administration, led by honorable President Duterte for all the support we are getting on this regard,” Gomes told reporters.

“We are pinning our hopes on the new administration for the recovery of our money,” he added.

Gomes said he was hopeful for the swift return of $15 million that was surrendered by casino agent Kim Wong to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

He pressed foreign exchange brokerage Philrem, which he said held $17 million, to return their money. The entire $81 million was converted into pesos through the company, according to a Senate inquiry.

“We think Philrem has to take the responsibility of returning that amount and in that context we are pursuing with the different agencies of the government,” he said.