Press Release
April 13, 2016

Recto: Palace OK to hasten return of dirty money

Once it is sought, Malacañang should approve the request of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to return to the Bangladesh government its earnings from the cyberheist loot gambled away in state-regulated casinos.

Senator Ralph Recto issued this call after it emerged in Tuesday's Senate hearings on the electronic theft of $81 million of Bangladesh funds that PAGCOR will return any income derived from stolen money played in casino tables, provided it is given clearance by the Office of the President.

As regulator, PAGCOR gets a gross gaming revenue or GGR of 15 percent, PAGCOR Chief Operating Officer and President Eugene Manalastas said when asked by Recto how much PAGCOR's share is from "winnings and taxes. "

Pressed by Recto if PAGCOR is "thinking about returning money which came from Bangladesh," Manalastas said "since we are under the Office of the President, we will seek a directive from them if we can return the amount."

Recto welcomed PAGCOR's "good intention," adding "kung yung iba nga nagsauli na, dapat ang ahensyang ito, kahit walang kinalaman sa krimen, at kahit maliit lang na halaga, kahit symbolic lang, ay magbalik rin."

After hackers wired the funds in tranches to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), a huge chunk was funneled to casinos where it was later converted into chips for betting in gaming tables.

At present, PAGCOR could not determine if how much it earned from the laundered chips as earnings from a particular casino "are intermingled," Manalastas said in reply to Recto's query.

PAGCOR, however, has given casinos 10 days to submit the amount. A casino representative told senators that they will have to look into player records to determine the amount.

"Specifically, you will have to look into the accounts of Gao Shuhua," Recto said, referring to the Chinese national who got the Bangladesh money and spent part of it in casinos.

Representatives of PAGCOR-supervised casinos said they've been looking at records for weeks in order "to determine which portion of that gross gaming revenue actually pertains to the Gao playing account."

Upon further questioning by Recto on what could be the "ballpark figure" of PAGCOR's share from one junket operator involved in the mess for the month of February when the heist happened, Manalastas said "approximately P48 million."

"So, what is the disposition of PAGCOR here?" Recto said.

"We are under the Office of the President, a directive from the President will allow us to return the amount," Manalastas said.

Recto said PAGCOR's actual earnings could be way lower than the ballpark figure of P48 million. "But even at P48 million, it is still a drop in the bucket of what it earned last year."

According to PAGCOR's financial statement posted on its website, the government's third largest revenue earner raked in P47.21 billion in 2015, up 18 percent from 2014's gross take of 39.99 billion.

Its gaming income last year, which accounts for more than 90 percent of its annual revenues, grew 45 percent to P43.38 billion from P29.93 billion a year ago.

PAGCOR's earnings from other related services include regulatory fees that it collects from licensed casinos and income share from other gaming activities such as e-games, commercial bingo and poker.

PAGCOR's license fees range from five percent of gross gaming revenues from high roller tables as well as junket operations and 15 percent on gross gaming revenues from non-high roller tables, slot machines and electronic gaming machines.

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