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Ongpin: Amla prone to abuse

By: Daxim L. Lucas, January 2nd, 2013 10:42 PM

Businessman Roberto Ongpin has urged lawmakers to consider amending the current law against money laundering, saying that the law, in its current form, can easily be abused for political ends.

In a letter to Sen. Joker Arroyo, the former Marcos trade minister said that the freeze order issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council on his local bank accounts had resulted in “reputational damage,” despite the fact that he has been neither charged nor convicted of any crime.

According to Ongpin, the Anti-Money Laundering Act needs to be amended so “that it cannot be misused or abused, as in my case, because of political vendetta.”

The businessman, who chairs Internet gaming firm PhilWeb Corp. and real estate developer Alphaland Corp., among others, also said that his publicly listed companies had lost “several billions” worth of market capitalization as investors, worried by the reports of the freeze order on his funds, sold down his stocks.

“As you are aware, the freezing of one’s bank accounts is, in most jurisdictions around the world, a most serious matter and clearly infers that the person whose accounts have been frozen has committed or has been convicted of a most serious criminal act,” he said.

Ongpin stressed, however, that his P510 million in loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines were nowhere near the definition of “behest” as alleged by his critics, especially since these had been fully repaid ahead of time, and helped the state-owned book substantial earnings in the process.

Critics of the deal alleged that Ongpin, known to be close to former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, obtained the loan from DBP in record time, without the requisite lending safeguards in place—an accusation he has denied.

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