SC affirms Sandiganbayan’s subpoena to AMLC on chopper case deal vs Mike Arroyo
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court Third Division has affirmed Sandiganbayan’s order for the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to turn over bank records related to the purchase of secondhand helicopters for the Philippine National Police (PNP) that involved former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
In a decision made public Thursday, the high court dismissed the petition filed by the AMLC that assailed the Sandiganbayan’s 2017 resolution refusing to quash the subpoena it has sent to the body for the bank documents.
The former first gentleman was accused of having a hand in the P62-million sale of two helicopters to the police.
The seller, Lionair, sold the helicopters as brand new but a witness during the trial said it was not. Arroyo allegedly deposited partial payment to the chopper to Lionair’s Union Bank account.
During the trial, the bank manager testified that the account was closed in 2006, and since more than five years have elapsed, the bank had disposed of the account records. The manager suggested that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or the AMLC be asked for the reports on the transaction since banks are required to report covered transactions.
Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act or RA 9160, a covered transaction refers to “’a single, series, or combination of transactions involving a total amount in excess of [P4,000,000.00] or an equivalent amount in foreign currency which has no credible purpose, origin, or underlying trade obligation or contract.”
Covered transactions also include: (1) transactions in cash or other equivalent monetary instrument exceeding P500,000.00; (2) transactions with or involving jewelry or precious stone dealers in cash or other equivalent monetary instrument exceeding P1,000,000.00; and (3) casino cash transactions exceeding P5,000,000.00 or its equivalent are also deemed covered transactions.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor has submitted a request to issue a subpoena to the AMLC. But the AMLC maintained that Lionair’s bank account is confidential. The Sandiganbayan dismissed the argument of the AMLC as well as its motion for reconsideration. The case was then elevated to the Supreme Court.
In affirming the Sandiganbayan, the high court said AMLC “is not one of the covered institutions prohibited from disclosing information on covered and suspicious transactions.”
The high court explained that the rationale behind the prohibition does not extend and apply to the AMLC. It reiterated that unlike covered institutions, the AMLC is mandated to investigate and use the information it has to institute cases against violators.
It added that criminal prosecution of anti-money laundering offenses will be hampered if AMLC will be prohibited from disclosing information on suspicious transactions
“Petitioner is not merely a repository of reports and information on covered and suspicious transactions. It is created precisely to investigate and institute charges against the offenders. Section 7 clearly states that it is tasked to institute civil forfeiture proceedings and other remedial proceedings, and to file complaints with the Department of Justice or the Office of the Ombudsman for anti-money laundering offenses,” said the high court said.
Besides, it noted that the owner of the bank account in question, Lionair, has already issued written permission to produce the records.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
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