A proposed measure that could spare the Philippines from being blacklisted by an international anti-money laundering task force moves a step closer to being enacted after the Senate approved it on second reading on Wednesday.
Sponsored by Sen. Francis Escudero, Senate Bill (SB) 1468 seeks to put more teeth into the existing Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) by including the casino industry in the list of institutions covered by the law.
The Senate is expected to pass SB 1468 on third and final reading next week, in order to have it enacted into law by June, to meet the deadline set by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG).
According to Escudero, failure to enact the required legislation within the given time frame would put the Philippines under monitoring of the International Corporation Review Group of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that could eventually result in the blacklisting of the Philippines.
The APG, in its report dated November 23, 2016 during the group’s High Level Visit in Manila on November 17-18, 2016, urged the Philippine government to include casinos under AMLA coverage before the next APG meeting in July 2017.
Escudero said the blacklist tag would put the country under stringent international financial scrutiny, which might increase the cost of bank transactions abroad and affect remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
According to the senator the Philippines barely escaped the FATF blacklist after hackers broke into the Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and successfully stole $81 million.
The money found its way to four fake bank accounts in a Makati City branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and transferred to Philrem Services Corporation and then delivered in cash tranches to casinos.
The senator said the heist highlighted a vulnerable aspect in the country’s anti-money laundering efforts and underlined the FATF’s conditions with regard to casinos.
Under SB 1468 casinos, with respect to their casino cash transactions related to their gaming operations, shall be considered as “covered persons.”
A single casino cash transaction involving an amount in excess of P5 million or its equivalent in any other currency will be considered as a “covered transaction.”
The bill also proposes a period of effectivity of a freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals and the processes involved, subject to other remedies available under the same law.