CA affirms lifting of preservation orders vs bank accounts of casino junket operator Kim Wong

Court of Appeals

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed its decision that upheld the trial court’s ruling which lifted the asset preservation orders (APOs) issued against the bank accounts of casino junket operator Kam Sin Wong, known as Kim Wong, a firm and two other persons on suspicion that the money was laundered from the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016.

In a two-page resolution written by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, the CA upheld its April 29, 2022 decision as it denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

The CA said:

“Once again, the Court made a careful and judicious study of merits of the case, in light of the respective arguments of petitioner (AMLC) in its motion for reconsideration of the Court’s Decision dated April 29, 2022, and private respondents (Wong, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co., Ltd., Qioqiao Wendy Wang, and Dong Na Xu) in their comment/opposition to the motion.

“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.”

In its decision last April 29, the CA found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Manila regional trial court (RTC) in granting the lifting of the APOs on the accounts with the Philippine National Bank (PNB) as it pointed out that “the trial court did not gravely abuse its discretion in granting private respondents’ motions to discharge APOs.”

Court records showed that the RTC granted the motion of Kim Wong and his group to lift the APOs since the accounts were opened with Allied Banking Corporation (now PNB) before the hacking of the bank account of the Bangladesh Bank with Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The trial court said in its ruling that the AMLC failed to prove that Wong and his group connived with PhilRem Service Corporation 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.

It also pointed out that the surrender to the AMLC by Kim Wong and Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd. of $4.6 million and P488.28 million was a demonstration of their 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 stolen funds from the Bangladesh Bank.

In its April 29 decision, the CA said:

“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.”

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