Gov’t stepping up fight against dirty money

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THE GOVERNMENT is stepping up its fight against dirty money flows, as Malacañan Palace ordered the formation of a multi-agency coordinating body for this effort.

Executive Order No. 68, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea on Nov. 12 and e-mailed to reporters on Wednesday, provides for the adoption of the National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Strategy (NACS) 2018-2022 and the formation of a National AML/CFT Coordinating Committee.

“All relevant government agencies and instrumentalities shall adopt the NACS 2018-2022 in the formulation and implementation of all their plans and programs which may have an impact on the AML/CFT efforts of the government,” the order read.

That strategy consists of action plans addressing the risks and problem areas identified in the Philippine National Risk Assessment. The latest report, covering 2015-2016 and released in December, said that the national money laundering threat remained “high”, while the US State Department described the Philippines as a “major” money laundering site in 2016.

The government has been plugging loopholes in the basic anti-money laundering law. Republic Act No. 10927, signed into law last year, further boosted defenses against dirty money flows by requiring casinos to report daily transactions worth at least P5 million to authorities. The Philippines’ gaming system was thrust to the spotlight when hackers in February 2016 used some $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York laundered their loot in casinos. Out of the stolen $81 million, only about $15 million has been returned to the Bangladesh government.

EO 68 also forms the National AML/CFT Coordinating Committee (NACC) to provide overall policy and strategic direction and oversee NACS implementation.

The NACC will be led by the Executive Secretary as chairman, while the central bank governor will serve as vice-chairman. NACC members will consist of the secretaries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice, National Defense, Trade and Industry and of Interior and Local Government; the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Insurance Commissioner; chairman and chief executive officer of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., among others.