Casinos included in AMLA coverage

MANILA- Inclusion of casinos as among the institutions covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) strengthens Philippines ability to prevent entry of illicit funds.

This is a very welcome development, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. Wednesday after news reports said President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law last July 14 Republic Act (RA) 10927, which amended Republic Act No. 9160, otherwise known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

Under the new law, covered transaction from casinos are single cash transactions in excess of PHP5 million or its equivalent in foreign currencies.

The law's amendment came after the country became part of a controversy in 2016 when USD81 million, which was part of Bangladesh central bank's funds that was stolen from its account with the Federal Reserve of New York, was transferred to four accounts with the local Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).

Part of the funds were eventually traced to casino operator Kim Wong, who later on returned a total of USD 4.63 million and PHP 488 million worth of cash to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

Wong said the funds were what his company, Eastern Hawaii Leisure, Ltd., received from the laundered money that passed through the RCBC Jupiter Branch in Makati City in February 2016.

Espenilla said the amended law plugs a critical gap in our legal framework.

It will significantly strengthen our ability to prevent the entry of illicit money into our economy, he said.

The central bank chief, who also sits as AMLC chair, said the AMLC Secretariat is already in the process of building up its manpower complement in line with the expanded scope.

The IRR (implementing rules and regulations) for the new Casino Law will be fast-tracked and should be in place by year-end at the latest. The IRR will be developed in coordination with casino regulators notably PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation), he added.

Source: Philippine News Agency