After Bangladesh bank heist, Poe calls for bank disclosures in PH

MANILA, Philippines – With the Senate already investigating the involvement of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in the controversial $100-million Bangladesh Bank heist, will the next administration be open to amending the country's Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)?

For Senator Grace Poe, it's about time the country follows the trend all over the world: bank disclosures.

"It's not a question of whether we should lift the bank secrecy law. It's a matter of when we're going to do it," Poe told reporters after the 2016 Presidential Dialogues hosted by the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines.

She added: "The trend now in the world is having bank disclosures, not bank secrecy. This is to prevent also the funnelling of money down to terroristic activities, drug cartels, etc. We should be one with the international community in preventing such activities."

An RCBC official and other individuals are facing complaints filed against them by the Anti-Money Laundering Council due to allegations made by the Bangladesh Bank that $81 million of the $100 million stolen from it had found its way to the Philippines, and released to people with accounts in the RCBC-Jupiter branch. (READ: Ex-S&R owner to sue RCBC manager over heist)

The incident is now developing into the biggest money-laundering case recorded in Philippine history. (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH

During the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Tuesday, March 15, senators were not able to trace the exact location of the stolen money due to the country's "strict bank secrecy and weak AMLA" which became hindrances to reach a meaningful probe. 

While Poe is in favor of lifting the bank secrecy law, she insisted the country should still lay out safeguards that will ensure bank disclosures really achieve their purpose.

"We should not allow the current or whoever is in the administration to use it to probably find ammunition against their opponents. So we should have very strict guidelines as to what the parameters are in enforcing bank disclosures," she added.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Teresita Herbosa already called on Congress to further strengthen the AMLA to include casinos and art in its coverage. 

Poe agreed with Herbosa and said the Philippines should consider including casinos in the coverage of AMLA, or else "everyone will just channel in a particular industry that is not covered by the bank disclosures." – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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