MANILA - Amid a Senate probe on the $81-M money laundering controversy, Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco has said it may be a good time to rethink the bank secrecy law.
Tetangco said lifting the bank secrecy law or easing it under certain conditions will help authorities prevent and investigate money laundering cases.
“Prevention of this particular activity is being hampered by very strict bank deposits secrecy law. We must be able to track the money, we need that extra authority. Because once the funds go into a bank deposit, that’s it, the trail turns cold,” Tetangco said.
In the past two Senate hearings on the controversy, several resource persons including officials of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) have been citing the bank secrecy law, as they declined to answer questions about the transactions.
LOOK: Secrets of the Bank Secrecy Law
RCBC is where the supposed illicit funds stolen from the central bank of Bangladesh entered the Philippine financial system.
Tetangco said that while there have been other cases of money laundering, this is the first cross-border money laundering case involving the Philippines.
He however noted there’s no indication of negative impacts on the financial markets yet.
“Looking at the behavior of the financial market over the last several days, there’s no indication of negative impact. The Peso has been appreciating, the bond market is steady, while the PSE index has been steady and even going up. But there is still a risk we need to address,” Tetangco said.
Tetangco added it is an opportune time to review and strengthen the legal framework of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, like including casinos, real estate dealers in the list of covered institutions.
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Meanwhile, BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla assured the public the banking industry remains strong. He explained that the main issue for depositors is still capital adequacy and liquidity, and the money-laundering case is specific to only one bank.