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Anti-Money Laundering Council head resigns

MANILA, Philippines – The executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Julia Bacay-Abad, has resigned from her post, following President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades against the agency's officials.

"The recent developments that confronted the AMLC and its Secretariat gave me the occasion to realize that, though already resilient on its own, the AMLC Secretariat will be accorded with renewed strength through a transformed strategy," Abad said in a statement on Monday, January 30.

Her resignation comes a month after Duterte threatened to "whack" executives of AMLC and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), accusing them of corruption and not doing their job.

"To be more effective, the direction that the AMLC Secretariat will prospectively take would have to come from a new leadership. This is not a decision that was taken lightly, but I believe that this is the right time for me to voluntarily relinquish my post as the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat effective January 31, 2017," Abad said in the statement.

The President first threatened AMLC and BSP officials in November last year. Duterte earlier accused them of contributing to a smear campaign against him during the 2016 polls.

It was then when Duterte challenged the BSP and AMLC to explain why they have not investigated accusations that he has P211 million in bank accounts which he did not declare in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

The BSP and AMLC have denied these allegations, saying they did not leak the bank documents being cited by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV regarding the alleged undeclared wealth of Duterte. 

Being the Philippines' financial intelligence unit, AMLC has the power to penalize those who launder money, the act of attempting to conceal the illegal nature of proceeds from unlawful activities such as drug trafficking. (READ: #AnimatED: AMLC's bloodless contribution to war on drugs)

But under the country's bank secrecy laws, AMLC is prohibited from sharing any information with anyone else except under court order.

Shoes to fill

With Abad's resignation, her successor will inherit more work that needs to be done.

Her successor will have to continue seizing the entire $81-million funds stolen from the account of Bangladesh Bank, which was coursed through the Philippines.

Early in 2016, AMLC investigated the Bangladesh Bank heist, which led to the filing of civil forfeiture cases against the funds and properties involved in the cybercrime heist, as well as criminal complaints for money laundering against bank officers and employees. (READ: Limited power restricts AMLC actions in Bangladesh Bank heist)

A partial judgment in the civil forfeiture cases was obtained in favor of the government in July 2016, forfeiting the amounts of $4.63 million and P488.28 million, which were eventually turned over to the Bangladeshi government.

"The AMLC recognizes the fact that more work needs to be done... I reassure you that I will continue to serve this government in the best of my ability albeit in a different capacity. I remain committed to provide the necessary support to the new head who will lead the AMLC Secretariat, and steer it to greater heights," Abad said. – Rappler.com