EDITORIAL - Money laundering haven
EDITORIAL - Money laundering haven
(The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

The Anti-Money Laundering Council’s report that the country is a haven for dirty money did not come as a surprise. The government was forced to pass anti-money laundering laws only after the country faced the threat of an international financial blacklist years ago. Even then, it took many more years before offenses such as corruption were included in the predicate crimes covered by the AMLC.

Today the country remains a prime destination for dirty money earned particularly from human trafficking, terrorism, smuggling, ransom kidnapping and environmental crimes, the AMLC reported.

The AMLC based its assessment on 161,650 suspicious transaction reports involving a total of P17.9 trillion submitted by financial institutions supervised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, such as banks and money service businesses, from January 2013 to December 2017.

Philippine authorities have also expressed concern about drug money being laundered for activities including election campaigns. The weakness of campaign finance regulation makes this kind of money laundering relatively easy.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act has had to be amended several times to expand the coverage of the AMLC, with terrorism, tax evasion and corruption-related offenses among the last to be included. Even with the addition of predicate crimes, the AMLC still needs a lot of inter-agency cooperation and official support to perform its mandate effectively.

The AMLC is pushing for the swift referral of suspicious transaction reports to appropriate supervisory authorities and law enforcement agencies. After the referrals, swift and thorough investigation is also needed for the filing of criminal charges. The law imposes tough penalties on money laundering. What’s missing is enforcement, and the political will to launch a no-nonsense crackdown on dirty money.

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