Press Release
September 20, 2017

Aid Rohingya refugees, help Bangladeshi recover lost millions, says Koko

With and estimated 380,000 Rohingya refugees pouring into Bangladesh to escape alleged attacks by Myanmar sercurity forces, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Wednesday said that the Philippine government should do everything in its power to help the Bangladeshi government address the refugee crisis.

"Thousands of Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh for safety, and the country's resources will undestandably be stretched as it helps deal with this humanitarian crisis," said Senate chief.

"We must do anything and everything we can to help."

One way the Philippines could help, said Pimentel, is for the Department of Justice (DOJ), Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to step up efforts to run after Philippine-based money launderers who had a hand in stealing 81 million dollars from the Bangladesh Bank.

"While 15 million out of the 81 million dollars have been recovered and returned to the Bangladeshi government, we must not stop there and must continue to assist Bangladeshi authorities until the full amount is recovered because they need every cent," said Pimentel.

Last year, the Bangladesh Bank account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was the victim of hackers who attempted to steal close to one billion US dollars. While 30 of the 35 transactions were intercepted by the Federal Reserve Bank, five transactions involving 81 million US dollars entered the Philippines via Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) using several fictitious accounts.

The funds were laundered through several of the country's casinos, which are currently not covered by the AMLA.

As a result, the BSP levied a record-setting fine on the RCBC, amounting to one billion pesos, which the bank has already settled in full. According to Pimentel, the current refugee crisis involving the Rohingya added to the "urgency" involved in the recovery of the Bangladesh Bank's funds.

The United Nation estimates that in addition to the 380,000 Rohingya refugees that have crossed into Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar, more Rohingya refugees continue to arrive daily.

While a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has noted that Bangladeshi communities have shown "remarkable generosity" by welcoming Rohingya into their homes and sharing their resources with refugees, UN agencies have reiterated the urgent need for additional funds to provide protection and life-saving assistance for Rohingya refugees in view of their growing numbers.

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