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‘Dirty money’ law may soon cover casinos

By: - Reporter / @daxinq
/ 01:00 AM March 29, 2017

The Philippines could tighten its money laundering law this year to cover casinos, in a move aimed at plugging loopholes that allowed $81 million stolen from Bangladesh to pass through Manila gaming venues, its top lawmaker has said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said proposed revisions to the country’s antimoney laundering law would close a gaping loophole that exempted the local gaming sector from having to report transactions of its patrons to authorities.

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The proposal calls for a P3-million cap on bets by a single client,  beyond which the transactions become subject to scrutiny by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

“First, they will have to know their players, their customers,” Pimentel said, emphasizing the “know your customer” practice that is currently required only of banks but exempt casinos where wealthy players put a premium on anonymity.

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He said the bill also requires the gaming industry to use “high tech” or electronic systems that can monitor the cumulative amount that any single casino patron is betting during any given period.

“And within a 24-hour period, if [the bets amount to] P3 million or more, then that’s already a covered transaction,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said he expects the Senate version of the bill to be passed before Congress ends its summer session in May.

The Senate President made the comments during Monday night’s cocktails in Makati City to welcome the new Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Philippines Asad Alam Siam.

The new envoy said his mandate remained the same as his predecessor’s—to recover the missing funds which were stolen by computer hackers in February 2016 from the accounts of the Bangladeshi central bank with the New York Federal Reserve and wired to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

Hackers attempted to steal $1 billion in Bangladeshi funds, but the bulk was blocked by a timely “stop payment” order.

However, the $81 million wired to RCBC was released into the local casino system, prompting accusations of neglect or conspiracy between the top brass of the Yuchengco-owned bank and one of its bank managers.

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The exclusion of casinos from the current scope of the antimoney laundering laws and a strict bank secrecy law have made it difficult for authorities to track the Bangladesh money trail and identify the perpetrators.

A recent report published by the Wall Street Journal quoted unidentified US government sources as saying that the computer hackers left electronic fingerprints similar to an earlier hacking incident that was traced to North Korea.

Pimentel said the Senate was not inclined to reopen its investigation into the case—WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS

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TAGS: Anti-Money Laundering Council, Aquilino Pimentel III, casinos, Money Laundering
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