THE Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld its decision upholding the Manila City Regional Court Order’s order to vacate the asset preservation orders (APOs) it had against the bank accounts of casino junket operator Kam Sin Wong and several others on suspicion those accounts were used to launder the $81 million in reserved funds stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016.
In a 2-page resolution issued by the CA’s former Special Second Division, the Court of Appeals overturned the motion for review filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) asking for its decision to be overturned. The Competent Authority considered that the AMLC had not presented any new arguments that would justify a re-examination of the said decision.
“Once again the court has conducted a careful and reasonable study [of the ] Merit of the case in the light of the respective arguments of the petitioner in his request for review of the Court’s decision of 29 April 2022 and private defendant in their comment [and/or] Objecting to the application,” the CA said.
“The court cannot be persuaded to make a new decision. The issues raised in the application were considered, weighed and referred by the court in said decision. The application therefore does not raise new and substantive matters or valid and compelling reasons that would justify a review of the Court’s judgment,” it said.
In its decision, the competent authority found no serious abuse of powers by the Manila RTC in granting the request of respondent Kam, his company Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd., Qiaoqiao Wendy Wang and Dong Na Xu to unblock their bank accounts in the Philippine National Bank in its order of October 16, 2019. The CA ruling states that the trial court did not grossly abuse its discretion in granting private defendants’ motions for relief from APOs.
The trial court granted defendants’ motion for exoneration of the APOs on the grounds that the bank accounts in question were held with Allied Banking Corp. (now PNB) were opened before Bangladesh Bank’s bank account was hacked.
It also found that AMLC could not prove that private respondents were PhilRem Service Corp. in committing an illegal activity and that they knew beforehand that the P1 billion transferred to their accounts by the latter belonged to Bangladesh Bank.
The trial court also noted that the surrender of the sums of $4,630,000.00 and 488.28 million pesos by private prosecutors Kam and Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd of Bangladesh Bank. However, the trial court said “it cannot be denied that such action was a demonstration” of the defendants’ good faith.
The issuance of the APOs stemmed from the AMLC filing a civil forfeiture petition before the Manila RTC in 2016 to recover funds stolen from Bangladesh Bank. Despite the cancellation of the APOs, the competent authority ordered the court to settle the civil forfeiture action filed against the defendants and pending before it as quickly as possible.
“Given the allegation that the trial court respondent committed a gross abuse of discretion in granting motions to dismiss APO because there was ‘a probable cause that private defendants’ bank accounts were linked to the unlawful hacking activity,’ it is sufficient to state that the main case is still pending before the defendant district court. This case is the right procedure to clarify whether there is a probable reason why the bank accounts of private respondents were linked, among other things, to the illegal activity of hacking,” the competent authority said.