Casinos in the Philippines could be required to report all transactions above $3,200 if a new Senate bill becomes law.
On Monday, new legislation was introduced in the Philippine House of Representatives that would remove the exemption casinos received under the nation’s Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001. On Thursday, the Senate got its own bill to increase scrutiny of casino transactions.
In introducing Senate Bill 45, Sen. Panfilo Lacson specifically referenced the recent Bangladeshi bank heist that saw $81m in stolen funds flow through local casinos and junket operators. Lacson said the scandal had exposed the AMLA’s “vulnerabilities” and steps were required to guard against “the raging threats of money laundering.”
SB 45 would require casinos to report individual or aggregate transactions totaling P150k ($3,200) over a single gaming day. By way of comparison, US federal reporting requirements set the single transaction threshold at $10k.
Casinos would be prohibited from receiving cash “for transmittal through wire or telegraphic transfer for or on behalf of a customer.” Casinos would similarly be barred from making cash payments to a customer from funds received via electronic means. Casinos also couldn’t cash checks for customers.
Casinos wouldn’t be allowed to receive any funds that “the purpose of ownership of which cannot be ascertained within a period of seven days, unless the [Anti-Money Laundering Council] prescribes a different period, from the date of the receipt.”
Finally, casinos would be given the authority to withhold transactions for up to two banking days “to allow them to verify if a transaction is suspicious, and terminate if they find reasonable belief” that the transaction would violate the AMLA.
Violations of these new rules would result in fines of P1m ($21,200) or 20% of the transacted funds, whichever is higher. Filing false information on a money laundering transaction would earn you a prison term of six months to four years.
Lacson’s bill also imposes new restrictions on banks, requiring them to report all transactions over P500k ($10,640). The bill would establish the country’s central bank as the supervising authority of foreign exchange dealers, money dealers, remittance and money transfer businesses.
The stolen Bangladeshi funds were originally sent to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, then were transferred through local remittance firm Philrem Services Inc to various elements of the local casino industry.
Lacson’s bill would bring other non-gaming activities under the AMLA, including cybercrime, weapons violations and tax evasion. SB 45 also acknowledges the country’s volatile political climate by including a clause that prevents the filing of money laundering charges against any political candidate during an election period.