AMLC freezes P1.4-B suspected accounts

- Des Ferriols -

About P1.404 billion worth of funds in corruption-related cases have been investigated by the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which also reported freezing a total of P1.399 billion on suspicions of being laundered funds.

Data from the AMLC showed that the council has recorded a cumulative increase in the number of suspicious transactions, reaching a total of 20,836 individual cases.

According to the AMLC, the total number of covered transactions that raised the money-laundering red flag reached P122.325 million as of end July this year.

The AMLC reported that the transactions included reports from banks and non-banking institutions, insurance companies, securities and government institutions.

Under the law, financial institutions and other covered institutions report automatically to the AMLC any transactions that fall under the category of “covered transactions” and “suspicious transactions.”

These are funds that were either big enough to raise the red flag or were conducted in suspicious circumstances based on criteria provided under the Anti Money Laundering Act.

As a result of these reports, the AMLC reported that it has so far frozen a total of P1.399 billion—all involving suspicious activities ranging from corruption-related transactions and various criminal activities.

As cases were resolved, however, AMLC said some of the funds have also been unfrozen and either returned to investors or the victims. This amount reached P959.911 million.

On the other hand, the AMLC said it has investigated corruption-related cases involving over P1.404 billion worth of public funds although there was no data as to how much of these funds had been frozen or recovered.

But the AMLC said it had on record a total of 17 corruption cases that have so far been filed before the courts and government agencies, involving about P530 million worth of public funds.

With key legal questions still unresolved by the Supreme Court, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco said authorities were preparing for the on-site evaluation by the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) on Anti Money Laundering this October.

Tetangco said the Anti Money Laundering Council co-chaired by the BSP and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were conducting meetings and consultations with relevant government agencies and financial institutions.

“We want to ensure that the (APG) assessment team is provided with all the information necessary prior to the team’s forthcoming on-site mission,” Tetangco said.

According to Tetangco, AMLC has also submitted its proposed amendments to the Congressional Oversight Committee (CoC) on Anti Money Laundering for its consideration.

Tetangco said the House of Representatives, under the Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries chaired by Congressman Jaime C. Lopez, recently conducted a public hearing on two house bills for the amendment of specific provisions of the Anti Money Laundering Act.

The proposed amendments were contained in House Bills 3053 and HB 4784, Tetangco said.

Legislators have already expressed concern earlier that the Philippines might be black-listed for legal short-comings that hamper full compliance with the international anti-money laundering standards.

Chief among the concerns were questions on the Human Securities Act as well as the pending case before the Supreme Court that essentially suspended all bank inquiries into suspicious transactions. 

The Financial Action Task Force on Anti-Money Laundering wants the Philippines to legislate a separate law on financing terrorist activities but officials said the government said existing laws already address this concern.

There was also concern that the decision of the Supreme Court to require prior hearing before the officials could conduct bank inquiries would erode the effectiveness of the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

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