Outgoing Senator Sergio Osmeña III has filed Senate Bill 3227seeking to amend the anti-money laundering law to include casinos, art dealers and real estate brokers in the list of individuals or entities that can be investigated for money-laundering activities.
Osmeña filed the bill in the aftermath of several Senate hearings conducted by the Blue Ribbon Committee on the $81-million stolen money from the Bank of Bangladesh that eventually ended up in local casinos and banking sector.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had canceled the licenses of Philrem service Corp., Werquick and Peso Remittance Express Inc. as foreign exchange dealer, money-changer and remittance agent after they were linked to the laundering of the $81 million.
“It must be recognized that the casino and gaming industry, under the supervision and regulation of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., has been a strong and responsible partner of the government in pursuing its development plans,” said Osmeña who lost in his reelection bid.
However, he said the casino operator is equally exposed to the threats of money-laundering.
“Its vulnerabilities to criminal exploitation can be attributed to the fact that casinos are cash incentive business with higher volumes of large cash transactions taking place very quickly,” he said.
He said casinos offer many financial services such as remittance, cash issuance and foreign exchange, and the movement of funds—either internationally or domestically undertaken—associated with gaming-related tourism which are poorly understood and may pose money-laundering threats.
The senator proposed that the Anti-Money Laundering Council be authorized to issue freeze orders on suspicious transactions.
The measure would also allow the AMLC to check compliance with the AMLA by covered persons not under any supervising authority.
“The investigative function of the AMLC is greatly limited by the fact that before a court order allowing inquiry into or examination of bank accounts or deposits is granted, the AMLC needs to establish the existence of probable cause that the money instrument or property is in any way related to unlawful activity,” he said.
He likewise recommended the reduction of required quantum of evidence as basis for an authority to inquire into or examine bank accounts or investments.
In his bill, Osmeña said he wanted the BSP designated as the supervising authority for foreign exchange dealers, money changers, remittance and money transfer businesses, for the purposes of the AMLA.
The senator also recommended that unlawful activities under AMLA be expanded to include violations of firearms and ammunitions regulation act, cybercrimes, violations of Strategic Trade Management Act (regarding weapons of destruction) and tax evasion.
The senator said it would be necessary to increase the monetary penalty for administrative violations to P1 million or 20 percent of the value of the money instrument or property laundered or sought to be laundered.