Economy


Bill may close casino loophole in 2001 money-laundering law




Posted on July 06, 2016


A BILL seeking to include casino operators in the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act has been filed at the House of Representatives.

A bill seeking to include casino operators in the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act has been filed at the House of Representatives. -- BW FILE PHOTO
Quezon City Rep. Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. (4th district) filed House Bill 014, “An Act designating casino operators as covered persons under RA No. 9160, otherwise known as the ‘Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001,’” as amended.

Mr. Belmonte said in a statement that “we cannot afford to repeat” the Bangladesh Bank heist which saw $81 million in stolen money reaching the Philippines, eventually making its way to junket operators and casinos.

Hackers broke into the Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Feb. 5 in an attempt to transfer as much as $931 million to banks in Asia. The funds sent to the Philippines were received by Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in four transactions.

“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,” added Mr. Belmonte.

The proposed measure requires casinos to report “covered and suspicious” transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council. It also provides for stricter customer identification requirements and record keeping systems.

Also under the bill, casinos are prohibited to convert money from one form to another without their being used for gambling.

In 2008, the country was placed on the “gray” list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) due to insufficient anti-money laundering safeguards, including those watching the movement of funds for terrorism. This assessment by the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering also noted the exclusion of key industries such as casinos from the rules in force.

The Philippines eventually exited the watch list and, in 2012, narrowly averted returning after making what FATF deemed a “high-level political commitment” to address deficiencies in its law against money laundering. But the international body had then expressed concern that casinos continued to be unregulated.

Mr. Belmonte said that the proposed measure seeks to address this issue and discourage the use of casinos as a venue for illicit activity. -- Raynan F. Javil