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Bank accounts of drug suspects frozen

/ 02:19 AM December 09, 2015

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The government’s Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has frozen at least 27 bank accounts, including two dollar accounts, containing possibly billions of pesos and belonging to five suspected drug lords here, police said on Tuesday.

“I cannot provide the actual figure as to how much, but, probably, it’s billions of pesos,” said Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, city police director.

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The Court of Appeals granted the AMLC’s petition for the freeze order on the bank accounts of Benilda Lao, her son Pedzmar, her daughter-in-law Nimeira Cawanan, relative Al Najier Idjas, and business partner Danny Tan Go on Sept. 2, but Casimiro said his office had been notified by the agency only recently.

The AMLC, a financial intelligence unit headed by the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, is tasked with investigating and causing the prosecution of money-laundering offenses. It can inquire or examine any deposit or investment, including related accounts, with any banking institution, upon any court order, on suspicion of money laundering.

Lao maintains several bank accounts, including two with Banco de Oro, one with Philippine National Bank, and two with MayBank, Casimiro said. “These accounts will undergo forfeiture proceedings in the next six months, unless their legal counsels can prove those accounts ranging in billions of pesos were legally acquired,” he said.

Supt. Joseph Ladip, regional head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Western Mindanao, said Lao had been considered the local drug queen.

She was known to be one of the biggest distributors of prohibited drugs here and in neighboring areas, said Marvin Santos, PDEA chief of operations. “Around 85 percent of drugs flowing into Zamboanga City and nearby provinces come from her group. She is one of the leaders of the drug syndicates in the region,” he told the Inquirer.

In 2007, she was arrested, but the case against her was dismissed by the prosecutor. In 2013, a vehicle she owned was intercepted by authorities and yielded P1.7 million in suspected drug money. Again, she was cleared.

The following year, some P6 million worth of “shabu” was recovered from a condominium unit she reportedly owned here, but she evaded the arresting officers.

Finally, she was arrested during a raid on a safe house along Sto. Niño Drive in Barangay Tetuan on May 5. She is detained at the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center.

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TAGS: AMLC, Anti-Money Laundering Council, bank accounts, Court of Appeals, drug lords
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