THE Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld its decision affirming the order of the Regional Trial Court of Manila City lifting the asset preservation orders (APOs) it issued against the bank accounts of casino junket operator Kam Sin Wong and several others on suspicion these accounts were used to launder the $81 million reserved funds stolen by hackers in 2016 from the Bank of Bangladesh.
In a 2-page resolution issued by the CA’s former Special Second Division, the appellate court junked the motion for reconsideration filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) seeking the reversal of its decision. The CA held that the AMLC failed to raise new arguments that would warrant the reconsideration of the said decision.
“Once again, the Court made a careful and judicious study [of the ] merits of the case, in light of the respective arguments of petitioner in its motion for reconsideration of the Court’s Decision dated April 29, 2022, and private respondents in their comment [and/or] opposition to the motion,” the CA said.
“The Court is not swayed to reconsider. The matters raised in the motion had been scrutinized, weighed and passed upon by the Court in said Decision. The motion, thus, fails to present any new and substantial matter, or any cogent and compelling reason, which would justify reconsideration of the Court’s ruling,” it declared.
In its decision, the CA found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Manila RTC in granting the plea by respondents Kam, his company Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd., Qiaoqiao Wendy Wang and Dong Na Xu to free their bank accounts in the Philippine National Bank in its order issued on October 16, 2019. The CA ruling said the trial court did not gravely abuse its discretion in granting private respondents’ motions to discharge APOs.
The trial court granted the respondents motion to discharge the APOs on the ground that the subject bank accounts were opened with Allied Banking Corp. (now PNB) before the hacking of the bank account of the Bangladesh Bank.
It also noted that the AMLC failed to prove that private respondents connived with PhilRem Service Corp. in committing an unlawful activity and that they had prior knowledge that the P1 billion remitted by the latter to their accounts belonged to the Bangladesh Bank.
The trial court also pointed out that private respondents Kam and Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd.’s act of surrendering to the AMLC the amounts of $4,630,000.00 and P488.28 million was an acknowledgment that the same were proceeds of the hacking of the bank account of the Bangladesh Bank. However, the trial court said “it could not be denied that such act was a demonstration” of the respondents’ good faith.
The issuance of the APOs stemmed from the AMLC’s filing of a petition for civil forfeiture before the Manila RTC in 2016 in a bid to recover the funds stolen from the Bangladesh Bank. Despite the lifting of the APOs, the CA ordered the trial court to resolve with utmost dispatch the civil forfeiture case filed against the respondents and still pending before it.
“Anent the contention that respondent trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in granting motions to discharge APO as there was ‘probable cause that private respondents’ bank accounts were related to the unlawful activity of hacking,’ it suffices to state that the main case is still pending before respondent trial court. That case is the proper proceeding to ventilate the issue of whether there is probable cause that private respondents’ bank accounts were related to the unlawful activity of hacking, among others,” the CA said.