CASINOS are now covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Friday Republic Act No.10927 which says that casinos, “including internet or ship-based” ones, are now regarded as “covered persons” under AMLA.
Republic Act No 10927 amends the original AMLA, Republic Act No 9160.
Casino cash transactions of more than P5 million or its equivalent in other currencies are now considered a transaction covered by the law and must be reported to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
In the amended law, the Anti-Money Laundering Council still has to wait for the Court of Appeals to issue a freeze order if they suspect a monetary instrument or property is related to an unlawful activity.
The freeze order will be effective immediately and will last 20 days.
The amendment signed by Duterte are much weaker compared to amendments proposed by Sen. Francis Escudero.
In the lawmaker’s committee report filed in November 2016, he proposed putting not just casinos but also real estate developers, money transfer firms, junket operators, and dealers of high-value item goods under AMLC’s watch.
Under the proposed amendments, these entities will need to report cash transactions that exceed P500,000.
They also allow AMLC to issue an ex parte freeze order, which will be effective immediately and will not exceed 30 days.
The urgency of putting more teeth into the AMLA was highlighted in the fallout of the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist – the biggest money-laundering case in Philippine history.
Senator Escudero lauded the signing of the President of the amended anti-money laundering law.
After intense scrutiny from both chambers of Congress and the President the law secured the approval of the Chief Executive shortly before the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) flew to Colombo, Sri Lanka for the Annual Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) Meeting and Forum on Technical Assistance, which will be held until July 21.
“I would like to thank the President for signing this into law right in time for the APG meeting. Now that we have already complied with the guidelines, we are hopeful that the country will no longer be put in the blacklist,” Escudero said.
“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,” the veteran lawmaker added.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, has long been urging the Senate to pass the amendments to AMLA in order to meet the deadline imposed by the APG. During its plenary meeting in September 2016, the APG decided to give the Philippines until June 2017 to pass the required legislation.
Escudero said he had high hopes that the inclusion of casinos under the AMLA coverage, as recommended by the global anti-money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is enough for the country to avoid potential blacklisting.
In 2013, even after the enactment of RA No. 10365, which further strengthened the anti-money laundering drive and removed the country from the FATF’s list of vulnerable jurisdictions, casinos were still not covered by AMLA.
The blacklist, Escudero reiterated, will put the Philippines under stringent financial monitoring and affect remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Last year, Escudero said the country “barely escaped” the FATF blacklist after hackers stole $81 million from the account of Bangladesh Bank in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and diverted the stolen money to four fake bank accounts in the Philippines.
With Marlon Purificacion