Despite the Philippine president signing a law that brings the nation’s casinos within the scope of the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act, a group tasked with suppressing illicit regional money flows reportedly has said it will continue to monitor the situation between now and the law coming into practical use. That might be the autumn, according to a Wednesday statement from the presidential palace.
Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Philippine Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, noted in comments quoted on Wednesday by the Philippine Inquirer newspaper, that the country was still being scrutinised by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), pending the law taking practical effect.
The amended law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 14. It will put casinos under the watch of the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Even after the amended Anti-Money Laundering Act becomes effective on August 3, the country’s casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and “other government regulatory agencies” have up to 90 days to promulgate what are known as “implementing rules and regulations”, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
News of the law signing was issued by the presidential palace on Wednesday. The same day the APG held its annual meeting in Sri Lanka. The group seeks to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and “proliferation financing” – i.e., money used to spread the availability around the world of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. It last year conducted a mutual evaluation report, the results of which were announced this week, into Macau’s financial system, including its casinos.
“AMLC was able to update the APG during their annual meeting in Sri Lanka that we have already passed the law. But according to them, the APG will still be monitoring the country until the law is already in force,” said Senator Escudero in his statement.
In late May Mr Escudero had said amendments to the act – also known as Republic Act No. 9160 – were necessary by the summer, otherwise the country faced being blacklisted by the APG. That would have meant the country being placed under stringent international financial scrutiny, the senator had stated.
In his latest comments, the lawmaker said: “I would like to thank the President for signing this into law right in time for the APG meeting. Now that we have already complied with the guidelines, we are hopeful that the country will no longer be put in the blacklist.”
Last year the Philippines reportedly narrowly escaped being placed on a blacklist of a body linked to the APG – the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force. It followed the theft by hackers of US$81 million belonging to the Bangladesh central bank – via an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the United States – which was then diverted to four accounts at a Rizal Commercial Banking Corp branch in Makati, Metro Manila. The money was later moved to Philippine casinos, where it mostly disappeared. Of the total that found its way into the Philippine financial system, only approximately US$15 million has so far been returned to Bangladesh.
In other developments, on Thursday Philippine media reported that the previous day the country’s Bureau of Immigration had arrested 45 foreigners in two operations held jointly with the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) of the Philippine National Police.
It followed the rescue on Tuesday of a Singaporean woman said to have been seized by a Chinese alleged syndicate targeting foreigners that had gambled at Manila casinos.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters