The Philippines needs to “exert more diligence” in ensuring “strict enforcement” of anti-money laundering (AML) controls in casino operations, says a national lawmaker.
House of Representatives member Ruwel Peter Gonzaga was quoted on Friday in the Philippine Inquirer news outlet, in the context of that country’s effort to get itself removed from the so-called ‘grey list’ of international watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The list features jurisdictions the body thinks need increased monitoring regarding financial-crime risk.
Alejandro Tengco, chairman and chief executive of the country’s casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), had mentioned in a keynote speech at an event in Manila in July, the Philippines’ urgent wish to free itself from the FATF grey list, where it was placed in June 2021.
In June this year, the FATF acknowledged the Philippines had “taken steps” towards improving its anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regime, but said it needed “to mitigate risks associated with casino junkets”.
Lawmaker Mr Gonzaga’s latest comments on the topic were against the backdrop of him sponsoring the Philippine Department of Justice’s 2024 budget in the House of Representatives.
He noted in response to another representative asking whether the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act provided a suitable basis for the Philippines to come off the risk list for money laundering and financing of terrorism: “We are still lacking in terms of the prosecution cases.”
Nonetheless, Mr Gonzaga suggested that while “we are still on the grey list… we are about to exit the list next year”.
Aside from prosecuting money laundering and terrorism financing, he said the country needed to have registration for so-called ‘covered persons’, i.e., those in jobs where they need training in best practice, and where they are eligible for registration with the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council.
“We also need to have more mechanisms on cross-border control especially with the bulk cash that comes in and out of customs,” added Mr Gonzaga.
In January, the governor of the Philippine central bank said the country has been given a year extension – until January 2024 – to meet the financial standards needed to get off the FATF risk list.
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