The amended Anti-Money Laundering Act placing gambling casinos within its purview has closed the gaps in regulatory framework, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor and Anti-Money Laundering Council Chairman Nestor Espenilla Jr. said Wednesday.
“This is a very welcome development. It plugs a critical gap in our legal framework,” Espenilla told reporters in a message via Viber.
To curb illegal financial transactions, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 10927 – amending RA 9160 or the AMLA of 2001 and expanding extent of coverage of persons and transactions.
“It will significantly strengthen our ability to prevent the entry of illicit money into our economy,” Espenilla noted.
Casinos, including internet and ship-based operations, are now covered by the law and must report transactions worth at least P5 million, or its equivalent in other currencies, to the AMLC.
Under RA 10927, the Court of Appeals can issue a 20-day freeze order on any monetary instrument or property believed to be linked to unlawful activity. During that period, the court will conduct a summary hearing to determine whether to lift or extend the freeze order. The freeze order shall not exceed six months.
Espenilla said the council secretariat is now in the process of building up its manpower complement in line with the expanded scope of the law.
“The IRR [implementing rules and regulations]for the new Casino Law will be fast-tracked and should be in place by year-end at the latest,” he said.
The rules and regulations will be developed in coordination with regulator notably the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., he added.
The amendments were signed more than a year after hackers supposedly stole $81 million from a Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February 2016.
The funds were then transferred to accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.’s Jupiter Street branch in Makati City, and then remitted to casinos and high rollers.
Casino junket operator Eastern Hawaii Leisure Ltd. returned $4.63 million and P488 million in cash, supposedly representing the entire amount that the company received from the $81 million.