SEN. Panfilo Lacson has filed a bill to widen the net of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) and put casinos, real-estate brokers, and dealers of works of art and motor vehicles under that law.
That law must be passed soonest.
The World Bank has urged the Philippines to have such a law. In April, the WB said the Philippines must make sure casinos were covered by anti-money laundering legislation. Other institutions also called for the government to improve its regulation of the expanding gambling industry after millions of dollars stolen from the Bangladesh government’s New York Federal Reserve account found their way to Manila.
In February, cybercriminals said to be based in China hacked $81 million from said account. The money wound up with two casinos and a junket operator in the Philippines who allegedly deposited it in their many accounts with the Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).
The Philippine government has recovered all but some $17 – 20 million of the stolen money.
Lacson said the April cyberheist of the Bank of Bangladesh exposed AMLA’s vulnerabilities and loopholes in curtailing laundering schemes in the Philippines, which is why he has filed this bill.
World Bank lead economist Rogier van den Brink said in April that loopholes in Philippine enforcement of the AMLA should be closed. He recommended that the law be amended to include casinos in its coverage.
Lacson was respectful of the casino industry. “While the [economic]contributions of the casino industry are acknowledged,” he said in a statement released Thursday, “it is also understood that casinos are equally exposed to the raging threats of money laundering.”
Lacson’s bill, if it becomes a law, would add to the powers of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) by putting the so-called Designated Non-Financial Business and Professions (DNFBs) under its coverage.
The bill would also place under AMLA coverage the following crimes and unlawful acts:
Violations of the Firearms and Ammunitions Regulations Act, Cybercrimes, Violations of the Strategic Trade Management Act regarding weapons of mass destruction, and tax evasion. To be reported would be transactions involving amounts of more than P500,000 in one banking day. But casinos would be required to cover every single transaction and all aggregate transactions exceeding P150,000 in one gaming day.
The bill prohibits casino operators from receiving cash for transmittal through wire or telegraphic transfer on behalf of a customer. It penalizes anyone who maliciously reports or files false information on money laundering transactions with a jail term of from six months to four years and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000.
The law would assign to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) the task of supervising foreign exchange dealers, money dealers, remittance and money transfer businesses.
This proposed law by Lacson is a necessary and important piece of legislation.