Thursday, March 17, 2016

Brazen Heist of Millions Puts Focus on the Philippines

By FLOYD WHALEY and NEIL GOUGH, NYT
MARCH 16, 2016

MANILA — It is a financial whodunit for the digital era: More than $80 million of Bangladesh’s money vanished last month after it was electronically transferred out of that country’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

As officials around the world search for the money and place blame, the caper is highlighting what looks like a weak point in the global financial system that allowed the money to get by regulators: the murky banking system of the Philippines.

The country’s investigators are now looking into how the money came to be transferred to that Pacific nation — and what happened to it afterward. The trip, which appears to jump from Philippine banks to the country’s lightly regulated casinos and then to points unknown, touches on a number of pressure points where United States officials and experts say the country is vulnerable to potential corruption and money-laundering.

Specifically, they point to the country’s increasingly flush casino industry, which is exempt from many of the anti-money-laundering requirements in the Philippines. The Philippines also retains what one United States official once called some of the world’s toughest bank secrecy laws, recalling a time before the rise of concerns about terrorism financing and tax evasion, when countries promised privacy in the hopes of becoming financial hubs.

(More here.)

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