Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Anti-Money Laundering Council step up drive against money launderers

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) yesterday signed a memorandum of agreement to further strengthen the two agencies’ partnership and boost their efforts to freeze the ill-gotten wealth of drug lords   and forfeiting them in favor of the government.

PDEA chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino and AMLC executive director Mel Georgie B. Racela signed the agreement to identify money launderers who “wash” their illicit proceeds from illegal drug activities.

Last year, the PDEA Anti-Money Laundering Desk referred 75 cases involving 102 targeted drug personalities and 64 personalities believed to be involved in illegal drug activities to the AMLC for financial investigation.

Aquino said from 2011 to 2018, the AMLC has frozen a total of P2.037 billion worth of assets, which include local and foreign currencies, real estate, motor vehicles and firearms, from all drug cases referred by the PDEA AMLD.

Under the agreement, both parties expressed their desire to promote and encourage cooperation to effectively prevent, control, detect and investigate unlawful activities under Section 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act or AMLA.

The parties also pledged to cooperate in the areas of information exchange and capacity building measures, including the exchange of studies, researches, information on current, new and emerging trends and typologies in money laundering and terrorism financing. Joint trainings may be undertaken by PDEA and AMLC to ensure the inter-operability of their respective personnel.

The two parties also agreed to include terrorism financing as a predicate offense and subject to the common provisions of assistance; establish a feedback mechanism, to enable parties to monitor effectiveness and improve on the information shared; designation of focal persons, to facilitate enhanced coordination and cooperation; and strict confidentiality of information shared, among others.

The PDEA chief said  the agreement focused more on the actual coordination process and requirements of and from each party in rendering support to combat money laundering activities in relation to illegal drugs.

“Drug lords hide their profits to make it appear they were acquired through legitimate means. We need to track down their drug money trail and prevent them from using their affluence and influence to evade punishment,” Aquino said.

The PDEA and AMLC are members of the National Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee-Sub-Committee on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism  and the Enforcement Cluster of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs.

AMLC is the primary government agency mandated by law to implement and enforce Republic Act 9160 or the “Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001” to protect the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts and to ensure that the Philippines shall not be used as a money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity.

As stated in the agreement, PDEA officers may request from the AMLC financial information needed to support an ongoing investigation of any violation of the anti-drug law.

In return, AMLC may enlist the assistance of PDEA in the detection and investigation of money laundering activities and other violations of the AMLA.

Prior to the signing of the agreement, three Financial Investigation workshops clustered in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were conducted with personnel of PDEA and AMLC as participants.

Three trainings on money laundering and financing of terrorism were provided to more or less 150 PDEA Drug Enforcement Officers  as part of the Agency’s capability enhancement program.

“The efforts and resources used by PDEA in tracking down and arresting illegal drug dealers and manufacturers will definitely go for naught if we cannot freeze the assets of these criminals while they are being prosecuted,” the retired police general added even as he pointed out “we cannot go on arresting and filing the cases while the drug lords are freely using drug money to buy their way out of prison,” Aquino said.