PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte recently enacted into law a bill that puts casinos under money laundering monitoring in a bid to curb illicit financial transactions, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Signed by the President on July 14, the law amends the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 to include casinos under the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
The move to monitor large transactions at casinos came after proceeds from an $81-million theft were funneled through several gambling establishments last year.
Under the amended law, casinos must now report to the central bank’s Anti-Money Laundering Council all transactions exceeding P5 million.
The law authorizes the council to obtain court orders freezing these funds for up to six months if it is suspected they were “in any way related to an unlawful activity.”
Funds proven in a court trial to be related to crime will be forfeited to the state.
The Philippines passed its first anti-money laundering law in 2001 to avoid being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, a group of countries dedicated to keeping the international financial system off-limits to criminals.
The task force had since been calling on Manila to expand the institutions required to report suspicious transactions, in line with other task force members.
The original law only covered banks, trust entities, insurance companies, investment houses, securities dealers, moneychangers and money remittance firms.
Hackers stole $81 million from a US account of the Bangladesh central bank last year.
Most of the funds disappeared after being funneled in February 2016 through a Philippine bank and several casinos
The Philippines has in recent years emerged as a gaming hub aiming to rival Las Vegas and Macau, with 2015 gross gaming revenues of about P133.3 billion, according to latest regulatory figures available.
Over the past four years three huge casinos costing at least $1 billion each have risen on government-owned reclaimed land on Manila Bay called Entertainment City, with a fourth scheduled to open in 2019.
The new law also covers Internet-based casinos using remote communications facilities. Ship-based casinos are also covered.
Senator Francis Escudero, who pushed to have casinos covered by the Amla, thanked the President for signing the law right in time for the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering.
“Now that we have already complied with the guidelines, we are hopeful that the country will no longer be put in the blacklist,” said Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies.
“AMLC was able to update the APG during their annual meeting in Sri Lanka that we have already passed the law. But according to them, the APG will still be monitoring the country until the law is already in force,” Escudero said.
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