You want to eliminate the stink from dirty money, stolen money and “yyyuge” (Donald Trump’s version of huge) money earned from organized crime? Come tot the Philippines. It is more fun for the laundering business here.
We have the best environment for that, namely :
• Multiple casinos that serve purposes other than pampering high rollers
• Pliable banks
• Malleable bank personnel
• Very cavalier monitoring of dirty money moving to and from the country
• A treasure trove of willing local accomplices for laundering schemes
More or less, these elements made possible the movement of money stolen by hackers from a Bangladesh bank recently, the bulk of which moved with speed into the Philippines after being cleared by the FRB of New York. And after the FRB’s delayed effort to stop the clearing of the money it thought was clean.
It even turned out that the money was inputted into local accounts that were opened a year ago for the sole purpose of waiting patiently for dirty money to come in – which indeed came in the form of the $81 million. In short, it was a big-scale laundering which had its genesis here, and the names being investigated as perpetrators are familiar names from the murky world of the underworld.
The $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Bank moved through a swift, seamless passage into our country via the banks and the casinos. And unraveled because of a clumsy error. It is now being investigated by the senate and the co-conspirators based here will hopefully be identified and sent to jail. But it is safe to assume that it was not an isolated case of washing dirty money using Philippine institutions. The local systems, definitely, do not merely have “cracks” that could be exploited by money launderers. They have holes the size of the Benham Rise.
Our institutions that are supposed to serve as vanguards of the effort to prevent dirty money from being washed and laundered here are both vulnerable and pliable. Not only that. We have reports of a bank manager stuffing her car with sacks of cash, apparently part of the laundered money.
After a break from the Napoles scam, and after a brief rest from the lurid details of a scam that gave outsiders the impression that we were a never-do-well nation with tainted institutions, here we are with the same old same old stories of bags of cash and institutional corruption.
But then again, the hacking and money laundering and the Napoles scam are really not much separated from each other. In fact, they are first cousins. For it was the pliability and weakness of our institutions that allowed Janet Lim Napoles to pile up real estate acquisitions in the US.
While the media accounts on the Napoles scam essentially focused on the SARO-for-Cash exchange and the subsequent jailing of three senators (a former senate president, a presidential contender and a vice presidential aspirant), the sidebar was just as important – the properties of the Napoles family in the state of California. A hotel in Anaheim, a unit at Ritz Carlton and other prime real estate registered under the names of kins and some hastily-formed limited liability corporations.
The Porsche of her kids and the Hermes and the Hublot – plus the partying with Hollywood denizens — would not have been possible without the cavalier attitude of our institutions in relation to money laundering.
Question. How was she able to move money into the US to acquire prime properties? It was not loose change that was moved for the property acquisition. It was not like the routine case of a wealthy Filipina buying one piece of property in the US via a substantial down payment and a five-year amortization. It was definitely the case of pork barrel proceeds that moved seamlessly into the US due to failure of our institutions to place checks on money launderers.
Janet Napoles had no legal shield to speak of as her business, Saro-for-Cash exchange with the legislators, did not give her a cover as a legitimate businesswoman capable of moving tons of money into the US. Yet, with no sweat, she was able to do it.
Of course, there are other forms of laundering, such as political laundering. When a leader papers over the many failures of his country through word plays and verbal scams. President Aquino, our Dear Leader, has been using this stratagem to paper over the many failures of his government.
Massive and intractable poverty? Well, we have an excellent GDP.
The massacre of SAF 44? Well, we have steady inflows of investments.
Around 10 million children dying slow deaths because of malnutrition ? Well, we have Daang Matuwid.
Small hog raisers dying slow deaths due to pork smuggling? Well, we have credit upgrades.
The good thing is people have refused to be sucked into these verbal scamming and have soundly rejected his presidential candidate and purported torch bearer.