Bloomberry Summoned in Case Brought by Bangladesh Bank Over $101 Million Cyber Heist

Posted on: September 25, 2020, 05:12h. 

Last updated on: September 25, 2020, 10:00h.

Bloomberry Resorts said in a filing this week it had been summoned to the New York State Supreme Court over 2016’s $101 million Bangladesh Bank heist.

Bloomberry Resorts
The Solaire Casino Resort in Entertainment City, Manila, where much of the stolen money was laundered. (Image: Bloomberry Resorts)

The Philippines casino operator is among 17 entities and individuals named in a civil lawsuit filed in May by the Bangladesh Bank. It seeks to reclaim the millions of dollars allegedly stolen by North Korean hackers from an account at the New York Federal Reserve. The money was allegedly laundered through the lightly regulated Philippines casino sector, including Bloomberry’s Solaire resort.

The lawsuit comes after a federal case against Bloomberry, accusing it of violating anti-racketeering (RICO) laws in relation to the heist, was dismissed last March.

Also named in the new lawsuit is Philippines bank RCBC and several key members of its management, who are accused of conspiring with the perpetrators of the robbery.

Philrem, the Philippine foreign exchange broker that converted and moved some of the money, is also a defendant, as is Kim Wong, the Chinese Filipino owner of the Eastern Hawaii casino resort in the Cagayan economic zone in the Philippines’ far north. All defendants are accused of theft, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

How the Heist Went Down

On February 4, 2016, hackers flooded the New York Fed with requests to transfer almost $1 billion from an account used by the government of Bangladesh. The thieves had previously introduced malware into the Bangladesh Bank’s servers, which enabled them to use payment credentials to authorize 35 requests for transfers into accounts based in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Five of the 35 transactions were processed — amounting to around $101 million — before someone at the New York Fed smelled a rat and blocked further payments.

The $20 million that turned up in Sri Lanka was quickly traced and recovered. The rest ended up in four RCBC accounts that had been opened the same day under false names.

There, the money was consolidated into one account by RCBC branch manager Maia Deguito and transferred to Philweb, which transmitted it in various tranches to bank accounts controlled by the Eastern Hawaii ($21 million), Bloomberry ($29 million), and a gambler named Weikang Xu ($31 million).

Wong at Eastern Hawaii said he had been told to expect the payment of $21 million from two high-rolling junket agents, Gao Shuhua and Ding Zhize. He told a Philippine tribunal that the two men owed him $10 million in gambling debts. The rest of the money was converted into chips for the junketeers’ high-rolling clients, he said. Wong has since repaid $15 million, while Gao and Ding have disappeared without a trace, as has Xu.

Gao, Ding, and Xu are also named as defendants in the new lawsuit. Each is, “based upon information and belief,” a Chinese national “residing at an unknown address in China,” it states.

The money that was wired to Solaire was converted into chips by the casino for Gao, Ding, and Xu, and washed clean at its high-stakes baccarat tables.

Philippine authorities believe that Gao and Ding cooked up the fake RCBC bank accounts with the help of Deguito.

To date, Deguito, who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence, is the only person to have been convicted for involvement in the heist.

Wider Conspiracy?

But the lawsuit argues that others at RCBC and Philrem were in on the conspiracy, as well as Wong, who was exonerated by Philippine investigators.

Liability should also extend to Solaire, it argues, which “allowed highly suspicious amounts of cash to enter its casino, accepted on its premises by individuals with dubious claims and false identification, and then [allowed them to] gamble away those funds while retaining for itself all of the profits from the gambling aspect of the money laundering operation.”

Solaire has said it had no idea the money was stolen and claims it is also a victim in the case.

Solaire Casino has also seized approximately $2 million in funds from the gamblers that were laundering the funds that it has set aside in a frozen account and failed to pay over to the Bank,” continues the compliant. “These funds and any other funds in the possession of Solaire Casino, in amounts to be fully ascertained through discovery, should be returned to the Bank.”

US and UN officials believe the heist was orchestrated by a North Korean hacking team, named “BeagleBoyz” by the US government, which specializes in robbing banks through remote internet access.

The BeagleBoyz have targeted financial institutions in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Spain, Turkey and several countries throughout Southeast Asia and Africa since 2015, and are suspected of launching the 2014 cyberattack against Sony Pictures.