Miriam wants casinos included in AMLA

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IF elected president in the May 9 polls, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said Wednesday she would certify as urgent a bill expanding the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include casinos.

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Santiago, who is running under the People’s Reform Party, said the recent $81-million fiasco involving funds hacked from Bank of Bangladesh highlights the urgent need to require casinos to report questionable deals to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

“If the casino sector remains outside of the coverage of AMLA, the Philippines risks becoming the world’s money laundering capital,” she stressed.

Santiago won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1988 for reforming the Commission on Immigration, which was then known as the “fake passport capital of the world.”

Her statement comes as the Senate blue ribbon committee continues to probe how the funds hacked from US accounts managed to enter the Philippine financial system unchecked.

The funds were later transferred to accounts of major casino players, and were reportedly used to either “buy chips” or “pay for casino losses.”

Santiago said the AMLA amendment is necessary for the Philippines to keep out of the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body against money laundering and terrorist financing.

If blacklisted by the FATF, the country would suffer higher financial transaction costs and stringent cross-border measures for money transactions.

At present, the Philippines remains in the FATF “gray list.”

The Congress sought in 2012 to require casinos to report to AMLC, a move that was opposed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., which said that the provision might drive away investors.

Santiago vowed to match the lobby from the casino sector with political will.

She stressed, “The Filipinos should elect a President who will not bow to the whims of big business — to the detriment of public interest.” NEIL ALCOBER 

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