Public urged to be vigilant as online suspicious transactions rise

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 11 2020 03:57 PM

MANILA - Reported suspicious online transactions increased this year, the Anti-Money Laundering Council said Friday, as it reminded the public to be vigilant while doing digital financial transactions.

Some 400,000 suspicious transactions have been filed this year, equivalent to the full year total received in 2019, AMLC executive director Mel Racela said in a virtual press conference.

However, it does not necessarily mean that money laundering related crimes also rose, he said.

“Suspicious transaction reports are at 400,000. It has already reached the same number last year, for the entire year last year," Racela said.

"We noticed an increase on online fraudulent transactions. We reminded the public that whenever they have online transactions, ensure these platforms are not used to perpetuate fraud," he added.

The AMLC said part of its mandate is to probe suspicious transactions including those with no legal or trade obligation, purpose or economic justification, client not properly identified, amounts which are disproportionate to the business or financial capacity of the client, characteristics/structure used to avoid AMLA reporting requirements, deviations from the profile of the client/client history and possible links to unlawful activity or offense that is about to be, is being, or has been committed.

Racela said AMLC is working with the Philippine National Police's Cybercrime group to probe fraudsters.

Two bank-related scandals have been raised this year including the allegedly missing $2 billion of the German payment firm Wirecard and the alleged cyberheist involving United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB).

Some 57 persons of interest involved in the Wirecard incident are under investigation while suspects linked to the UCPB cyberheist were reportedly arrested, Racela said. 

Despite the highly publicized incidents, the Philippines have "enough controls" to prevent money laundering in the Philippines, Racela said.

"I will not say it is easy to conduct money laundering in the Philippines. We have enough controls now in place as compared to 4 years ago, when the Bangladesh [bank heist] happened," Racela said.