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BSP revokes licenses of money changers linked to pork barrel scam

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) revoked the licenses of two foreign exchange dealers linked to the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles.

The central bank said in a statement on Tuesday, May 8, that its Monetary Board canceled the certificates of registration as a remittance agent, foreign exchange dealer, and money changer of Edzen Enterprises and World Wide Money Changer.

These two sole proprietorships are owned by Zenaida Artuz and Elliot Artuz, said the BSP.

Their licenses were revoked due to "significant violations" of their deeds of undertaking, specifically for failure to comply with Republic Act No. 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

Aside from the AMLA, the BSP said the two firms were also found in violation of the minimum procedures on the sale and purchase of foreign currencies by foreign exchange dealers and money changers, as well as the transactional requirements for large value payouts.

Court documents from the Department of Justice (DOJ) showed Edzen Enterprises and Key West Trading were the "principal money remitters" used by Napoles to send stolen money from the Philippines to the United States.

Through the pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, Napoles and her associates are believed to have siphoned off about P10 billion in government funds over an 8-year period. The DOJ said about P3 billion of the total amount went to Napoles.

The BSP's move is part of the government's campaign against money laundering and terrorism financing, which was highlighted when $81 million stolen from Bangladesh's central bank was coursed through a Philippine bank and casinos in 2016. (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)

The $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist had pushed the government to put more teeth into the AMLA.

In August 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law amending the AMLA. It placed casinos, real estate developers, money transfer firms, junket operators, and dealers of high-value items under the supervision of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). – Rappler.com