Proposed Amla to spring greater evil

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We respond to AMLC executive director Vicente S. Aquino’s letter and take exception to his obscurantist posturing against Sen. Joker Arroyo’s stand on the Anti-Money Laundering Act or Amla (Inquirer, 1/11/13).

Senator Arroyo supports the proposition that money laundering should be penalized because it is evil. But the three Amlas and the fourth one (still pending), which are designed to prevent money laundering, present an even greater evil.

Example: Dirty monies are deposited in a bank which accepts them. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) goes after an alleged laundered money, gets an ex-parte freeze order and impounds that dirty money.

Who should be penalized? The depositor of the dirty money? Of course. His money is dirty, which is why he wants it cleansed by depositing it in the bank.

What about the bank that accepted the dirty money? It too should be penalized for accepting the dirty money for deposit.

AMLC opposes penalizing money laundering banks and insists that only the depositor deserves to be sanctioned. It wants the present law maintained, it wants that the penalty for banks that engage in money laundering should merely be an administrative penalty of P500,000 for every transaction.

There will be no money laundering if banks do not accept dirty money for laundering. The first line of defense against money laundering should be the banks.  Banks are bound by the customer identification guidelines and procedure under the “know-your-customer (KYC)” rules.

Contrast this with the US record against money laundering.

US authorities recently penalized prestigious banks for money laundering and related banking offenses, such as HSBC—$1.9 billion (P75 billion); Standard Chartered Bank—$327 million (P13 billion); Credit Suisse—$536 million (P21 billion); Barclays—$298 million (P12 billion); Lloyds TSB—$350 million (P14 billion); ING—$619 million (P2.5 billion); Royal Bank of Scotland—$500 million (P20 billion). Instead of being criminally prosecuted, the banks chose to settle and paid huge penalties.

Aquino proudly wrote that his unit imposed a total amount of P3.1 million in fines and penalties on banks. In short, in the 12 years of AMLC operations, it has on average fined the erring banks a measly P250,000 a year.

On March 9, 2011, the AMLC and the BIR entered into a memorandum of agreement to work together in “the investigation and prosecution of persons involved in tax evasion,” although tax evasion is not a predicate crime under the existing AMLA, and AMLC has no business dabbling in it. Now, AMLC wants tax evasion added to the predicate crime it could poke into.

AMLC even wants 25 percent of any recovered laundered money for its use. That is a first in government history. That makes AMLC the most powerful and richest government office as it overreaches its power and authority.

—ABIGAIL ANNE HINTO,

legislative staff,

Office of Sen. Joker P. Arroyo,

abbeyhinto@gmail.com

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