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Laws needed to boost money-laundering rules

The chief of the Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat said measures against money laundering in the country have improved over the years but additional measures are needed to further improve the system.

AMLC Secretariat executive director lawyer Mel Georgie B. Racela said measures against fraudulent activities have been enhanced following the major bank heist four years ago, referring to the case wherein Bangladesh Bank funds were withdrawn out of its account in a US bank and ended up in the Philippines through a local bank.

He said a transaction monitoring system has been put in place and this gives the AMLC alerts regarding suspicious transactions.

He said they share some of this information with law enforcement agency-partners for additional investigation, noting also that the National Police’s cybercrime group asks for information from the AMLC at an average of 10 requests per week.

To further improve the Council’s anti-money laundering capacity and prevent the country from being included in the gray list of Paris-based money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s, Racela said legislative measures are needed.

The Anti-Terrorism Act has been instituted but Racela said this is not enough because the government needs to show that it can effectively implement this law.

Also needed is the approval of the amendments in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, namely the inclusion of tax evasion as a predicate crime, inclusion of real estate agents and developers as covered persons, and expansion of AMLC power in terms of the conduct of investigations, he said.

Racela said these proposals are nearing approval in the House of Representatives.

FATF has given the country a 12-month observation period to implement measures cited on the Mutual Evaluation Report released in October 2019. These measures include the institution of the Anti-Terrorism Act and reforms in the AMLA.

The observation period would end originally in October this year but was extended to Feb. 1, 2021 because of the pandemic.

“We only have October, November, December, and January to have these amendments passed and implemented,” he added.