Seeking to boost President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-corruption campaign, a bill has been filed at the House of Representatives seeking to include casino operators in the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.
House Bill 14, authored by former Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., said the proposed measure will help ensure the integrity of financial and banking institutions and transactions in the country.
It is also a crucial step towards making the Philippines’ anti-money laundering laws fully compliant with the international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“We cannot afford a repeat of the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist which saw $81-million 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,” Belmonte said.
“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,” Belmonte pointed out.
The importance of including the casino sector under the coverage of the Amla has been pointed out 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 RA 9160 of the anti-Money Laundering Act was enacted on Oct. 17, 2001 to address the growing concerns over money laundering. Years later, in order to strengthen the law, the Amla was amended by RA 9194, and RA.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.
Belmonte stressed that his measure, if passed into law, shall address this deficiency and introduce the necessary amendments to discourage the use of casinos as avenues of illicit activity.
This bill requires 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.