The World Bank Group said it supports calls for Manila to reform its Anti-Money Laundering Act and bank secrecy law amid mounting global concerns and ongoing investigations into the hacked $81 million fund from the Bangladesh Bank that found its way into a Philippine bank and out through several local casinos.
The WB warned in its “Philippine Economic Update” report released on Monday that global concerns over money laundering could affect the cost of sending remittances, if there is an increase in the closures of bank accounts of remittance-forwarding companies.
While the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) brings the Philippines’ regulatory regime on money laundering closer to international standards, better compliance with these standards, through further legal and regulatory reform, is needed, the Washington-based multilateral lender said in the report.
Several institutions have called for amendments to the current Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), particularly including casinos among entities covered by the act and required to report large or otherwise suspicious transactions.
The WB report pointed out that the coverage of the Act should be expanded to include sectors such as casinos.
In an interview with The Manila Times last month, Securities and Exchange Commission head Teresita Herbosa said they were pushing for the casinos’ inclusion.
“We have the international commitment to do so. Worldwide, casinos are already covered. Perhaps, we are one of the few countries which have not included casinos as covered persons.”
Having casinos included in the AMLA coverage will also prevent the country from being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Herbosa said.
In addition, the WB report pointed out that the country’s bank secrecy laws, among the strictest in the world, hamper the execution of AMLA’s compliance review programs.
With this, Rogier van der Brink, WB lead economist and program leader said the institution support the calls made by the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on further reforming the AMLA and the bank secrecy law.
“We really support the authorities’ calls for more legal reforms both in the AMLA and the bank secrecy law, because with those legal reforms it would be easier to do the AMLA client reviews and it would be easier to do the investigations,” he said.
Insurance Commissioner Emmanuel Dooc, who also is a member of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, earlier told The Manila Times that other amendments included in a draft of an update AMLA being prepared for the Senate were intended to ease bank secrecy, and give the AMLC wider powers to freeze suspicious accounts without reliance on a court order.