Philippines Revokes Remittance License After Bank Heist Probe

  • Central bank to work with other agencies in criminal probe
  • Senate ended separate investigation and will issue report soon

The Philippines revoked the license of Philrem Service Corp., the remittance company linked to the $81 million transfer of stolen funds from the Bangladesh central bank, the Southeast Asian country’s first disciplinary action after a probe into the heist that rocked its financial system.

Philrem, which transferred the bulk of the money to local casinos, had its permit canceled by the central bank for violating anti-money laundering rules. The company has appealed the ruling, President Salud Bautista said by telephone. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas also imposed a similar penalty on two other remittance firms, it said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.

Philrem was among the companies placed in the spotlight in the probe on one of the largest bank heists in modern history, where thieves hacked into Bangladesh Bank’s account at the U.S. Federal Reserve and routed the funds to accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. The money was wired by Philrem into local casinos, where the money trail has gone cold. The Philippine Senate ended a two-month probe last month -- where Bautista was questioned -- and will issue its findings soon.

The central bank said it will work with other government agencies including the Anti-Money Laundering Council and Department of Justice in their investigations “of possible criminal and administrative violations.”

The council filed a criminal complaint at the Justice Department against Philrem officials in April for allegedly helping launder the funds. It accused the company of acting as a “cleaning house” for the stolen money.

The central bank’s report from its probe into the money laundering will detail policy proposals and penalty recommendations, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla said on May 19 after attending the last of seven Senate hearings on the case.