AMLA amendments get Senate okay

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    THE Senate yesterday approved on third and final reading proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in time for the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) evaluation of the country’s compliance with international anti-money laundering standards slated on February.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Senate Bill 1945 got 21 affirmative votes and no negative votes. Sen. Grace Poe, chairwoman of Senate committee on banks, financial institutions, and currencies, and Senators Ralph Recto and Franklin Drilon will represent the Senate in bicameral discussions.

    One of the salient features of SB 1945 is the inclusion of real estate developers and brokers as “covered persons” required to make regular reports on their financial transactions to ensure that they are not being used as money laundering conduits.

    Real estate activities are widely used for money laundering and terrorism financing worldwide “when they engage in a single cash transaction of in excess of P5 million or its equivalent in any other currency,” the measure stated.

    Also included as covered persons are offshore gaming operators and service providers.

    Likewise included in the Senate amendments was the addition of the commission of tax crimes and violation of the Strategic Trade Management Act, which relates to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their financing, in the list of predicate offenses.

    The Senate measure similarly sought to give the Anti-Money Laundering Council more teeth by “enhancing its investigative powers through express powers of deputization, power to apply for search warrant, and power to obtain information on ultimate beneficial ownership, authorizing it to implement targeted financial sanctions on proliferation financing, authorizing it to preserve, manage or dispose assets subject of asset preservation order and judgement forfeiture; and prohibiting the issuance of injunctive relief against freeze orders and forfeiture proceedings under its jurisdiction.”

    Poe has earlier said amendments to the AMLA were needed as “we are implored to immediately act on it by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, ‘as a form of national economic emergency, due to the very serious economic costs’ arising from non-compliance.”

    The measure, she said, will be the country’s response to the key findings of the mutual evaluation report or MER which evaluated our compliance with the 40 recommendations of the FATF on Money Laundering.

    “If we fail to act now, the FATF ICRG Asia Pacific Joint Group or AP-JG will place the Philippines in the so-called ‘grey list’, along with countries like Albania, Pakistan, Panama, Syria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, to name just a few,” she.

    The House of Representatives has approved its own version of the measure last December. The bicameral meeting has yet to be set.