Opinion

Name the money launderers

Name the money launderers

The fight against criminality is a priority of the Duterte administration. So it should welcome the recent order of the Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC, directing banks and other financial institutions to include in their suspicious transaction reports the identities of the account holders or beneficial owners.

The AMLC order is part of efforts to get the country out of the gray list of jurisdictions under increased monitoring for money laundering. The country was returned to the gray list last June 25 by the Paris-based global dirty money watchdog Financial Action Task Force for failure to address strategic deficiencies in fighting money laundering as well as terrorist and proliferation financing.

Drug trafficking, a priority target of the Duterte administration’s anti-crime drive, is among the predicate offenses covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001. With the enactment last year of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the AMLC can also have clearer targets in going after terrorism financing.

Full compliance with the AMLC order should bolster efforts to fight corruption and plunder, which are among the offenses covered by the AMLA. With the approach of the 2022 general elections, the AMLC order could also help regulate campaign financing – an effort that has been stymied by lawmakers and other politicians. Jueteng and masiao as well as smuggling, which could be used to finance election campaigns, are also covered offenses.

As defined by the AMLC, any single banking transaction worth more than P500,000 within one banking day, which “is not commensurate with the business or financial capacity of the client” or deviates from the client’s past banking activity, can be reported as a “covered and suspicious transaction.”

There should be a lot of such transactions in the runup to the general elections. With legislators resisting efforts to ease bank secrecy laws, and the Office of the Ombudsman valiantly protecting opaqueness in government, the AMLC order to banks and other financial institutions should help stem the flow of dirty money. But there must be full compliance, with the AMLC capable of enforcing its order and imposing appropriate penalties.