US court junks conspiracy charges vs casinos, RCBC over Bangladesh Bank heist

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — A court in New York has dismissed conspiracy charges filed by the Bangladesh central bank against a Philippine bank and local casinos over a 2016 heist that took away $81 million from Dhaka.

In a disclosure, Bloomberry Resorts Corporation — the operator of Solaire Resort & Casino — said the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York junked the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO conspiracy claim filed by Bangladesh Bank against the company, as well as the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company, Ltd., Centurytex Trading, and remittance firm Philrem Service Corp. and their officers.

RELATED: Makati court finds ex-RCBC manager guilty of money laundering

The civil case stemmed from the February 2016 heist where thieves tapped into the system of the US Federal Reserve in New York and authorized multiple fund transfers from the Bangladesh Bank's account to several fake bank accounts under RCBC. The funds were wired during a long weekend, which left no time for regulators to block the transactions. The funds were withdrawn, converted into pesos and eventually into poker chips and gambled in casino tables here, where the money trail vanished.

RELATED: Bangladesh Bank official's computer was hacked to carry out $81M heist — diplomat

The casino operator said a March 20 opinion from the US court granted the motion to dismiss charges filed by defendants for Dhaka's failure to prove the conspiracy claim.

Bloomberry said the civil case was filed by Bangladesh Bank to collect the amount it allegedly lost to North Korean hackers.

READ: Bangladesh heist perpetrators may never be identified – ex US official

The RICO law allows parties to go after organized syndicates, which covers financial crimes like wire fraud and money laundering. Bangladesh filed the charges in January 2019, three years after the crime.

Of the amount, only $17 million has been recovered. The case is the biggest money laundering incident involving the Philippines, which prompted lawmakers to require casinos to regularly report big-ticket and suspicious transactions to authorities.