SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Reinforcing President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti corruption drive in all levels of government, including money laundering, outgoing Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. underscored the need to include casino operators in the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.
“We cannot afford a repeat of the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist which saw eighty one million dollars stolen from the bank's account that entered the Philippine banking system and made its way to local casinos and junket operators before being transferred overseas,” the former Speaker stressed.
Belmonte is author of HB 014 entitled “An Act designating casino operators as covered persons under R.A. No. 9160, otherwise known as the ‘Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001,’” as amended.
“Attempts to trace and recover the money encountered several setbacks, as casinos are excluded from the coverage of the country’s present anti-money laundering laws, do not require,” he pointed out.
The significance he said, of including the casino sector under the coverage of the AMLA is underscored by the Bangladesh Bank heist where tens of millions of dollars were stolen from the bank's accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Belmonte recalled that R.A. 9160 of the anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) was enacted on October 17, 2001 to address the growing concerns over money laundering. Years later, in order to further strengthen the law, the AMLA was amended by R.A. 9194, and R.A. 10365.
He noted that R.A. 10365, the most recent amendment to the AMLA, sought to address the country’s legal framework on anti-money laundering by making it fully compliant with the international standards set up by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body established during the 1989 G7 Summit in Paris to combat the growing problem of money laundering.
He further noted that the FATF has previously included the Philippines in its monitoring list of vulnerable jurisdictions, those with strategic or serious deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AMLA/CFT) regime.
“While the country was able to respond and enact legislation that removed the Philippines from the monitoring list, the FATF has directed the Philippines to work on the inclusion of the casino sector in the AML/CFT coverage,” Belmonte added.
HB 014, the author explains, seeks to address this deficiency and introduce the necessary amendments to discourage the use of casinos as avenues of illicit activity.
This bill, among others, mandates casinos to report covered and suspicious transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council, provides for stricter customer identification requirements and record keeping systems, and prohibits casinos from engaging in any transaction involving the conversion of money from one form to another without being used for gambling, Belmonte pointed out.
Section 11 (Penal and Administrative Sanctions) of HB 014 provides: Non-compliance with any of the provisions of this Act shall be punished with penalties and sanctions provided for under R.A. No. 9160, as amended.
“The proposed amendatory statute will help ensure the integrity of financial and banking institutions and transactions in the country, and is crucial step towards making the Philippines’ anti-money laundering laws fully compliant with the international standards set by the FATF,” Belmonte concluded.