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Dirty money watchdog sets new requirement

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REUTERS

THE Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) now requires banks, casinos and other covered businesses to digitize customer records to fast-track reporting and facilitate monitoring.

The financial watchdog said in a statement on Thursday that it has adopted guidelines on digitization of customer records — which will take effect next month — in a bid to improve efficiency in ferreting out dirty money deals.

“Through the guidelines, the AMLC will be able to conduct investigations without attracting unwanted attention and, at the same time, promptly take appropriate action,” AMLC Secretariat Executive Director Mel Georgie B. Racela was quoted as saying.

“If money launderers and terrorists discover our investigation, it is a foregone conclusion that they would spirit away their assets and thereby defeat the intention of the law.”

Banks, insurance firms, casinos and other covered entities need to report transactions worth at least P500,000 and suspicious transactions to the AMLC within five to 10 working days from occurrence.

All transaction records should also be kept for at least five years, while due diligence needs to be observed in accepting and maintaining clients.

Keeping centralized records would also ensure “swift transmission of data” to the AMLC, as it would allow faster retrieval of customer records “without having to request said records from branches on a per need basis.”

The AMLC also expects compliance officers of covered businesses to “proactively analyze” the financial profile of customers and conduct their own surveillance on suspected illegal wealth.

The financial intelligence body also said that digital record keeping is timely as it allows the Philippines to keep up with global standards, especially as it sees more online transactions.

In May, the AMLC required fund managers, jewelry dealers, lawyers and accountants to register as reporting entities and submit client data, as the regulator broadens coverage of its crackdown on money laundering and terrorist financing.

National money laundering risk remained “high” in 2015-2016, according to the second national assessment report published by the AMLC in December.

In a separate advisory, the AMLC also warned the public against scammers who pose as government officials and ask for personal data via phone call. Some cases involve scammers claiming to be policemen demanding bank account details and extorting money with the allegation that the victim was involved in the illegal drug trade.

“Please be advised that the AMLC and its members, as well as the AMLC Secretariat or any of its personnel, do not — and will never — contact the public and request personal or financial information, including bank account, credit card, account balance, transaction and online account details, through telephone, mobile phone, e-mail, or other modes of communication,” the watchdog said.

“Appropriate investigating agencies have been alerted to trace the source of these fraudulent calls.” — M. L. T. Lopez