The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has begun digging into the records of a reported 430 bank accounts linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Friday.
De Lima said the AMLC has ordered the banks involved to submit the records of the accounts of Napoles, her family, associates, corporations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to her after the Court of Appeals ordered the AMLC to conduct an examination of the bank accounts for a period of five months. The appellate court earlier issued an order freezing the same accounts for a period of six months.
“They are now undertaking the bank inquiry (and have) already issued letters or notices to the banks involved,” she said.
“They would normally require these banks to submit those records, copies of financial transactions or bank transactions under the specified accounts,” she added.
The AMLC is a financial intelligence unit created by the government to investigate suspicious banking activities to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The bank accounts covered by the appellate court order are with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp., Citibank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Land Bank of the Philippines, Banco de Oro, Insular Bank, Metrobank, United Coconut Planters Bank and Air Materiel Wing Inc.
De Lima said the court order covered not just the more than 100 bank accounts in Napoles’ name but also that of her staff, “including accounts in the name of some whistle-blowers like Benhur Luy.”
“So those are the accounts that the AMLC would review and this would show if there are possible offenses like money laundering,” De Lima said.
Once it is confirmed in the bank inquiry that these offenses were committed, appropriate charges will be filed,” she said.
In its ruling, issued last Wednesday, the Court of Appeals instructed the AMLC to submit a report within 10 days after the end of the five-month review of Napoles’ and Napoles-linked bank accounts.
“There is probable cause to believe that the bank accounts… may be related to an unlawful activity,” the appellate court said.
The appellate court said it based its decision on the allegations that Napoles was involved in a multibillion-peso scam which accessed the pork barrel funds of legislators, officially called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The bank accounts ordered scrutinized include those of Napoles and members of her family, of whistle-blower Benhur Luy, the latter’s mother Gertrudes and brother Arthur Luy, and Merlina Suñas, Evelyn Ditchon de Leon, Marina Sula, Nova Kaye Dulay Batal, Ronald Lim and Simonette Briones.
The AMLC will also review the accounts of the Abundant Harvest for People’s Foundation Inc., Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation, Countrywide Agricultural and Rural Economic Development Foundation, A Smile Foundation, JCLN Global Properties Development Corp., JCLN Real Estate Consortium Inc., JLN Construction and Devt. Corp., JLN Corp., Jo-Christine Trading and ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC).
ZREC is a government-owned corporation involved in commercial crop production that operates a rubber plantation in a 1,000-hectare property of Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College in Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte. It was one of the state agencies that, according to the Commission on Audit (COA), implemented questionable projects funded by the pork barrel of certain legislators.
According to a COA report, some P195 million of the pork barrel funds of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and Buhay party-list Rep. Rene Velarde for 2009 and 2010 were turned over by the Department of Agriculture to ZREC which the latter in turn transferred to a bogus NGO, the Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc.