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House panel OKs bill strengthening anti-money laundering law

February 3, 2011 9:28pm
A committee in the House of Representatives has approved a measure giving “more teeth" to the country’s existing anti-money laundering law.

The proposed measure, approved by the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into questionable bank accounts without informing the account holders as long as it secures a court order.

The bill, which has yet to be numbered, will amend Section 11 of Republic Act 9160 (Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001), to give the AMLC the authority to “inquire or examine any particular deposit or investment...with any banking institution or non-bank financial institution upon order of any competent court based on an ex parte application...when it has been established there is probable cause."

Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol, chairperson of the House panel that adopted the amendments, said the proposed changes to the existing law will make it easier to prosecute money laundering suspects in the country.

“Any deposit of money which violates Philippine laws, the AMLC can look into it if these amendments are passed. The intention is to give more teeth to the council executing the anti-money laundering law," he told GMANews.TV in a phone interview Thursday.

“We can prevent cases like that of Garcia if these amendments are passed," he added.

Apostol was referring to former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who was reportedly able to withdraw P128 million of the P303 million he allegedly stole from government coffers even before the government moved to freeze his assets.

Garcia was charged with plunder in 2005, but pleaded to a lesser charge of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering as part of the controversial plea bargain deal he struck with the Office of the Ombudsman last year. (See: Report: Ex-general Garcia pleads guilty to lesser offenses)

The bill also provides that AMLC may issue a freeze order which will take effect for 20 days — five days longer than the current 15 days — without also having to inform an account holder.

With the bill approved at the committee level, it will now be calendared to set the date for lawmakers to discuss and vote on it in plenary.—JV, GMANews.TV
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