MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon will lead a Senate inquiry into some $447 million (P22.68 billion) that entered the Philippines from September 2019 to February 2020, which he said may be linked to money laundering due to the proliferation of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country.
In a privilege speech on Tuesday, March 3, Gordon said that the total amount was brought in by 47 people. Some $210 million (P10.6 billion) or nearly half of the amount was reportedly brought in by Chinese individuals.
Based on the matrix shown during Gordon’s speech, the individuals declared that the money was for business, travel, casino, investment, or foreign exchange. They also declared that the money came from either Hong Kong or Singapore.
“Millions of millions of dollars [enter] our country. We have to declare that. But it doesn’t mean that if you declared, you are not a money launderer,” Gordon said.
“Ano bang negosyo mo? Ba’t ka nagpapasok ng ganyan kalalaki?…Sino ba ang kumikita dito? Ang kita ng gobyerno, kakapiranggot,” Gordon asked during his speech.
(What’s your business? Why are you bringing in that huge amount of money? Who is earning from this? Government is only earning a miniscule amount.)
In his speech, Gordon linked the huge cash flow to the presence of Chinese workers hired by POGOs.
The senator also raised why the Anti-Money Laundering Council was not immediately alarmed over the “suspiciously” large amounts of foreign currency in the country.
Gordon said the Senate blue ribbon committee, which he chairs, will launch a motu propio investigation into the multimillion-dollar cash flow into the country and where the money went. The hearing is set on Thursday, March 5.
Among those who will be invited to the Senate hearing are representatives from the AMLC, Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Finance, Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Philippine National Police.
On Monday, March 3, the BOC said that syndicates were able to bring in P18.7 billion in dirty money to the country with the “help of some police, military, and airport security personnel.”
BOC said that a certain “Rodriguez group” brought in around P10.2 billion. The same names were in Gordon’s list presented to the Senate plenary on Tuesday.
“We should be a viable country but now we are becoming a buy-able country. We will make sure, through our investigation, that we will maintain our flag raised. We must act now,” Gordon said. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P50.74