MANILA, Philippines - Criminal syndicates are buying real estate and jewelry as well as go to casinos in the country to launder "dirty money," Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona said Monday.
Guingona, in a press statement, said this should be addressed by passing Senate Bill 3123, which strengthens the existing Anti-Money Laundering Law in the country.
He cited an a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report that shows money laundering, terrorist financing and related crimes can undermine the stability of a country’s financial system.
“How we deal with money coming from possibly illegal transactions affect investors’ perception on whether or not we have a safe banking system. A weak anti-money laundering legal framework discourages legitimate banking activities and invites instead criminals who seek to make the Philippines a safe haven for their unlawfully acquired money,” Guingona said.
He said inflows of “hot money” in the country’s various financial institutions can also undermine the country's economy.
The IMF, in its December 14, 2012 report, states that policy making could be put to test as illegal money would most likely remain unaccounted for and affect the government data.
“SBN 3123 serves to reinforce our country’s Anti-Money Laundering legislative measures. It ultimately addresses the noted deficiencies in the Philippines’ legal framework with regard to anti-money laundering, by making our state fully compliant with international standards,” Guingona said.
The Senate bill eyes the expansion of “covered institutions” such as casinos, real estate agents, dealers in precious metals/stones, foreign exchange corporations, money changers, and pre-need companies.
“There is a need to monitor possible money laundering activities in other institutions. More and more, 'dirty money' are being laundered by betting in casinos, buying jewelries and later on reselling them, and converting unlawfully acquired funds into real estate properties,” Guingona said.
It also proposes to expand the list of unlawful activities including terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, bribery, fraud and illegal transactions.
Likewise, it also extends the definition of money laundering as a crime where it outlaws the proceeds of illegal activities that are transacted, converted, transferred, disposed of, moved, acquired, possessed, used, concealed or disguised.
The bill is expected to be tackled in the plenary once the Senate resumes session on January 21.
Guingona urged his colleagues to fast-track the measure.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is set to meet again on February 2013 where it will tackle the fate of the Philippines if the measure is not approved by then, he said.
Aside from being blacklisted as a result of the non-approval of the measure, some of the adverse consequences of being blacklisted include stricter scrutiny of remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and equally stringent processing of financial transactions that involve Filipinos or Filipino corporations, he added.
These result in severe delay and may negatively impact the Philippine economy in the long run, Guingona warned.