Press Release
May 30, 2017

Senate approves expanding AMLC law to cover casinos

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a bill that would expand the coverage of the existing Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) or RA 9160 to include casinos, in a bid to improve the country's legal framework against money-laundering and make it more compliant to international standards.

Senate Bill No. 1468, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, was passed with 21 affirmative votes, no negative vote and no abstention.

Senator Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies and sponsor of SBN 1468, said that the bill primarily sought to "put more teeth into the existing AMLA by including the casino industry under the coverage of the law."

The Anti-Money Laundering Act, first passed into law in 2001, established the Anti-Money Laundering Council to ensure that the country will not be "used as a money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity." It also required the government to cooperate "in transnational investigations and prosecutions of persons involved in money laundering activities wherever committed."

"Under this proposed measure, casinos, including internet and ship-based casinos, with respect to their casino cash transactions related to their gaming operations, shall be considered as "covered persons," Escudero said in his sponsorship speech.

He said that under the new bill, any single casino cash transaction involving an amount in excess of five million pesos (Php5,000,000) or its equivalent in any other currency will now be considered as a "covered transaction" under the AMLC.

"The bill also proposes for the period of effectivity of a freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals and the processes involved therein, subject of course to other remedies available under the same law," Escudero said.

He said the passage of the bill was necessary given the June deadline imposed by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) to the Philippines to strengthen its money-laundering laws.

The APG is an international body monitoring the implementation and enforcement of internationally accepted standards against money laundering and financing of terrorism. It is currently monitoring the country's compliance "with respect to the enactment of an anti-money laundering law including casino operators as covered persons."

He warned that failure to enact the required legislation within the given time frame would put the Philippines under monitoring of the International Corporation Review Group of the Financial Action Task Force, an global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog, "which could eventually result in the blacklisting of the Philippines."

Escudero said the blacklist tag would put the country "under stringent international financial scrutiny," which might increase the cost of bank transactions abroad, and badly affect remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) all over the world.

"Last year, our country barely escaped the FATF blacklist after hackers broke into Bangladesh Bank's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and successfully stole eighty-one million US dollars (US$81,000,000), which found their way to four fake bank accounts in a Makati branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation," he said.

"These monies were then transferred to Philrem Services Corporation and then delivered in cash tranches to casinos. The heist, therefore, highlighted a vulnerable aspect in our anti-money laundering efforts and underlined the FATF's conditions with regard to casinos," Esudero added. Escudero said that the FATF had earlier upgraded the country's status from FATF's "dark gray" list to its "gray" list in 2012, citing the country's progress in fighting money laundering.

However, he noted that in 2013, even after the enactment of Republic Act No. 10365--which further strengthened the anti-money laundering drive and removed the Philippines from the FATF's list of vulnerable jurisdictions-- casinos were still not put under the scrutiny of the law.

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