Filipino businessman denies links to money laundering scheme

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2016 5:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Filipino businessman, one of six people under investigation for the alleged laundering of $81 million dollars thought to have been stolen from the U.S. account of Bangladesh's central bank, on Friday asked authorities to unfreeze his bank accounts, denying involvement in the scheme.

William S. Go, petitioned the Court of Appeals to reconsider a March 1 freeze order issued at the request of the Anti-Money Laundering Council. He said one account under his name and another under the name of his company, Centurytex Trading, at a branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. were bogus and his signature had been forged.

The petition submitted Friday said Go did not open the accounts. It called for an investigation into the situation.

In a signed affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigations, Go said a branch manager at the Rizal Commercial Bank told him the two invalid accounts had been set up to handle a large U.S. dollar remittance allegedly coming from Bangladesh that was converted into Philippine pesos with the approval of the bank's head office.

Go's lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, told reporters that his client was not questioning the freeze on the accounts Go says are bogus, but is challenging its application to his other, legitimate accounts. Esguerra's office released to reporters copies of Go's court petition and affidavit to the NBI.

Rizal Commercial Bank's CEO, Lorenzo Tan, has denied knowledge of the scheme.

"I condemn as malicious and actionable insinuations that the top management of the bank knew of and tolerated alleged money laundering activities in one branch," Tan said in a statement earlier this week. "I will fully cooperate with all ongoing inquiries and believe that I and consequently the bank's management will be fully vindicated."

The Bangladesh central bank says it is working to recover some $100 million it says was taken from an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Authorities have given few details about how the money disappeared. But Bangladesh's finance minister, A.M.A. Muhith, said the government was considering suing the U.S. bank over the money's apparent transfer to accounts in the Philippines.

In a statement Wednesday, the New York Fed said it had not detected any hacking attempts, said there was no evidence any Fed systems were compromised.

The New York Fed said it has been working with the central bank of Bangladesh since the incident occurred "and will continue to provide assistance as appropriate."