Dirty money watchdog tightens rules


THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING Council (AMLC) is stepping up its watch on dirty money by requiring all reporting firms to identify and disclose ultimate owners of accounts or products.

The financial watchdog released new rules on beneficial ownership last week, ordering all banks, insurance companies and other covered institutions to report the identities of people who actually own or control accounts and financial transactions which they process.

“These standards require banks, other financial institutions and certain professions to identify not only the customer with whom they transact, but also the beneficial owners,” the AMLC said in a statement published on its Web site.

“Covered persons must conduct [sic] the risks posed by the customer and the beneficial owners. If they pose a high risk for money laundering or terrorism financing, validation of information must be performed by the covered person.”

This stems from previous cases wherein the watchdog discovered that dummy accounts and even non-government organizations (NGOs) are used to “hide identities” and “blurring the illegal source of the funds.”

“Money launderers and terrorists routinely use the cloak of anonymity to prevent the AMLC and law enforcement agencies from tracking them down. In the case of the AMLC, they also seek to avoid freezing and forfeiture of their assets obtained through criminal activities,” the financial intelligence unit also said.

High-profile cases that are said to involve money laundering include the P10-billion pork barrel scam wherein several lawmakers reportedly channeled public funds to ghost livelihood projects from bogus NGOs controlled by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is currently detained for multiple plunder and graft raps.

The new rules were signed on Nov. 23 and took effect on Nov. 27.

Earlier this year, the AMLC issued an advisory to reporting firms against dummy or “lend-out” accounts, saying all reporting parties should establish and record “the true and full identity” of account holders as well as transactors — or those who carry out fund transfers, deposits and withdrawals for every account.

Under the law, banks, insurance firms, casino operators and other covered entities need to report covered transactions — worth at least P500,000 — as well as suspicious transactions to the AMLC within 10 working days from occurrence.

These reports as leads in pursuing potential money laundering cases and predicate crimes.

Money laundering threat in the Philippines remained “high” in 2015 and 2016, according to the second national risk assessment report published by the AMLC in December last year. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez

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