FUNDS from Westpac Banking Corp. were channeled through a local lender. — REUTERS

ABOUT 10 LOCAL commercial banks were recipients of funds from scandal-hit Westpac Banking Corp. channeled through the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), the local partner of the Australian bank’s remittance arm, a senior Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) official said.

BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier said BPI has already submitted findings from their initial report which showed that funds involved were of small value and are lower than those required to be flagged and looked into under the country’s anti-money laundering regulations.

She also noted that BPI was only the entry point for the involved funds, which were also channeled to other local banks.

“What makes this different is that [they’re] small transactions. So hindi siya (they are not) required to be reported to AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council). It’s very retail,” Ms. Fonacier told reporters on the sidelines of the BSP’s launch of the P20 coins and the enhanced P5 coins.

Ms. Fonacier said they will go through their own review to determine their regulatory action depending on the situation.

“We’re doing a review and then if there’s a need for us to go on-site, then we will go on site [to see] whether banks are complying with the anti-money laundering regulations,” she said.

Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), covered cash transactions are those exceeding P500,000 in cash or in other equivalent monetary instrument.

Asked whether they will look into lowering the threshold for transactions covered by the AMLC, Ms. Fonacier said: “It’s difficult to say at this point kasi (because) this one, we still need to see what exactly happened. And that’s where siguro (maybe) we’ll be anchoring our recommendations later.”

She also said the probe from the BSP’s end may continue until January given that the holiday season is approaching.

“Andoon pa lang naman sa tinitignan (We’re still looking at) whether there was really a some kind of a behavior or pattern doon (in the) sa transaction. That’s the one we are still looking at and evaluating,” she said.

BPI last week said they have already suspended their partnership with Westpac’s LitePay facility.

This was after news broke out regarding the dirty money scandal alleging Westpac to have breached money-laundering laws by more than 23 million times, of which a big chunk were transactions of online purchases or received as pensions from foreign countries. — L.W.T. Noble