Duterte’s finance chief seeks tougher laws on illicit cash


  • Philippines
  • Friday, 06 Mar 2020

The Philippines must relax one of the world’s strictest bank secrecy laws so the government can crack down on suspected cash smuggling being linked to online casinos, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Friday (March 6). - Bloomberg

MANILA: The Philippines must relax one of the world’s strictest bank secrecy laws so the government can crack down on suspected cash smuggling being linked to online casinos, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Friday (March 6).

Congress should pass long-standing bills that would lift deposit secrecy in cases of fraud and to expand the powers of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Dominguez told a press briefing in Manila on Friday.

"If people in the legislature want more teeth to look at this, please give us more teeth. You want us to do a job, give us the tools,” he said.

The Senate has been investigating reports of cash smuggling and money laundering linked to the flourishing online gaming sector that targets gamblers in the mainland and employs hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers.

The money-laundering watchdog flagged as "suspicious” about 14 billion pesos (US$276mil) worth of transactions involving Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs from 2017 to October 2019, Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela said at a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Bulk of the transactions involved amounts that far exceeded the business or financial capacity of parties involved, Racela said. Some funds may also be linked to drug trafficking, fraud and e-commerce law violations, he said.

This follows a separate incident identified by the Bureau of Customs where two syndicates brought about $368 million into the country last year by couriers traveling two to three times a week and paid between 12,000 pesos and 50,000 pesos per flight. Authorities were unable to trace where the funds went after they were deposited in banks, Dominguez said.

Those courier transactions, except about $500,000, were reported in accordance with a law requiring travelers to declare if they are carrying more than $10,000 or its equivalent, Dominguez said. "Those that did not declare, we seized the money,” he said.

The Finance Department was still conducting its own investigation and didn’t want to tip off syndicates, Dominguez said, explaining why it only disclosed the cash smuggling after a senator called for a probe.

"If this happened and the Bank Secrecy law was lifted, we would have no excuse as to why we didn’t know about it,” he said. - Bloomberg
Article type: free
User access status:

Philippines , Govt , Bank , Crackdown , Cash Smuggling

   

Did you find this article insightful?

Yes
No

Across The Star Online