Bangladesh seeks return of stolen $15M by end-Aug.

THE GOVERNMENT of Bangladesh is hoping to retrieve at least $15 million of its stolen central bank reserves this August, its top diplomat to the Philippines said yesterday.

Meanwhile, moving to step up local safeguards against dirty money and nearly six months after the unprecedented $81-million bank heist, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) ordered banks and covered institutions to report suspicious transactions within five working days, shorter than the previous 10-day window.

Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes met more regulators in Manila, visiting the Department of Justice on Wednesday in a bid to finally collect the amount surrendered between March and May by junket operator Kam Sin Wong, one of the many implicated in a string of money laundering cases filed by the AMLC.

The Manila Regional Trial Court on July 7 finally forfeited the money in the Philippine government's favor, but the Bangladesh government had to file a formal claim with the AMLC in order to regain possession of the $15 million.

"Yes, this case about the $15 million is pending, but I think very soon within one month, they should be resolving that case and Bangladesh will be getting back their money," Mr. Gomes told reporters.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II told BusinessWorld: "The DoJ will appear for Bangladesh in its effort to recover the money."

Mr. Gomes was accompanied by Bangladesh Bank's counsel Ajmalul Hossain, an international lawyer and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. "Mr. Hossain is over here to discuss about the $15 million and also how to go about in the recovery of the rest of the money."

In Resolution 61 Series of 2016, published by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) through Circular Letter 2016-065, the AMLC said: "Considering the urgency of bringing to the attention of the AMLC suspicious transactions particularly those involving huge amounts and of public interest, which warrant immediate investigation by the AMLC Secretariat, the five-working day reporting period for covered and suspicious transactions as provided under Republic Act No. 10365 should be reinstated."

The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 specified a five-day window for filing reports, but that was extended to 10 days by the AMLC through Resolution No. 11 issued in February 2014.

Banks are unlikely to have major problems in complying with the new rule, according to Dante T. Fuentes, president of the Association of Bank Compliance Officers, Inc. "On the covered transaction reporting it is straight forward, 5 working days -- no problem here for universal and commercial banks," Mr. Fuentes said in an e-mail interview.

Source: Business World Online