If new legislation introduced into the House of Representatives of the Philippines this week is successful, it could subject local casinos to strict anti-money laundering (AML) requirements.
House Bill 14 was introduced by Rep. Feliciao Belmonte Jr, who said it was in response to the recent theft and laundering of approximately $81 million from the bank account of the Bangladesh central bank at the Federal Reserve in New York. The investigation was ended in May by the Philippine Senate in spite of the fact that most of the money is still unaccounted for. It was ended for a number of reasons, including the fact that the two senators leading the probe lost their re-election bids and wouldn’t have time to maintain the investigation prior to their terms ending and as outgoing Speaker and Quezon City Rep pointed out, “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,” according to the press release.
The bill requires reports be made to the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Council by local gambling venues in the event of any “covered and suspicious” transactions. Also, a more detailed and accurate accounting of their customers and their transactions would be required, as well as the prevention of the conversion of funds that aren’t being used for gambling purposes. According to the statement, the bill’s introduction was geared towards “reinforcing President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-corruption drive in all levels of government, including money laundering,” according to the release.
The bill is an amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, which exempted local casinos from the anti-money laundering regulations the country currently has in place. It is Belmonte’s hope that requiring the casinos to adhere to the 2001 Act will put the country in complete compliance with global standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF has warned that if the Philippines fails to act, the country could end up back on the task force’s “grey” list, which is a list of jurisdictions deemed vulnerable to money laundering.
Belmonte ended the announcement by saying, “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.”