Gov’t freezes P1.8 B in suspicious transactions
In 2012 suspicious bank transfers increased fivefold compared to 2011, records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council show

MANILA, Philippines – The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) ordered frozen a total of P1.77 billion in suspicious bank transactions in 2012, state auditors said in a report released on Thursday, July 4.

The amount represent 101 bank deposits and investment accounts, or an average of P17.5 million per questionable transaction.

The Commission on Audit also noted that the AMLC reported a fivefold increase in cases of “suspicious transactions” in 2012, compared to 2011.

There were 59,408 cases last year, against 9,479 in 2011 – a 509-percent increase.

AMLC defines suspicious transactions as any movement of fund, regardless of amount involved, where there is an attendant suspicion of unlawful purpose.

These cover transactions not only in banks or their subsidiaries but also insurance and pre-need companies as well as securities dealers.

Aside from cash, AMLC also monitors other deals involving monetary instruments like checks, bonds, stocks and money orders.

Among the signs that flag AMLC’s scrutiny are the absence of trade obligation to necessitate payment; larger-than-normal sums or greater frequency of transfers or deposits based on a client’s history; traceable unlawful activity; transaction patterns structured to avoid detection or reporting requirements; or sums that are abnormally large for the type of business or known capacity of the client.

Resulting from its monitoring activities in 2012, AMLC ordered frozen bank deposits and investment accounts amounting to P3.329 billion. After a thorough review, P1.556 billion was unfrozen and returned to investors or victims.

While waiting for the resolution of 101 pending civil forfeiture and freeze order cases in courts, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Ombudsman, AMLC said the balance totaling P1.772 billion will remain frozen.

The COA report also showed massive movements of funds with the number of “covered transactions” (those involving P500,000 or more in cash or other monetary instruments) soaring to P307.3 million, from only P46.5 million the year before – an increase of 561 percent.

However, owing to confidentiality of bank deposits and similar transactions, the identities of individuals, companies, or groups behind the fund movements were not disclosed.

Congress and the national government helped AMLC perform its mandate properly by increasing its 2012 appropriations to P30 million, which was more than thrice its 2011 purse of P9.7 million.

AMLC is the government’s primary financial intelligence unit mandated to protect the confidentiality of bank accounts and stop attempts at using the country’s banking system for money laundering operations. – 

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