BIR going after persons tied to money-laundering case
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is conducting a parallel investigation of the tax compliance of the personalities involved in the biggest entry of dirty money into the country’s financial system and casinos.
“Whoever needs to be investigated, we’re investigating … But the result of our investigation, I cannot tell you,” BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares told reporters on the sidelines of the Management Association of the Philippines’ general membership meeting on Tuesday.
Henares also declined to identify the specific personalities whom the BIR was investigating. “Just wait when we file a case,” she said. The BIR hales to court alleged tax dodgers through its Run After Tax Evaders or Rate program.
The BIR chief said the bureau’s audit was independent of those currently being conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Senate, which are probing how the huge amount stolen by hackers from Bangladesh’s central bank flowed into the Philippine banking system.
“We are independent; we have nothing to do with the Amla [the Anti-Money Laundering Act],” Henares said.
Lift secrecy law
“Every time there’s a controversy, whether it has a legislative investigation going on, we look into it just to make sure we’re not negligent,” she said.
“If taxes were properly paid, then they don’t have any problem. But if their taxes were not properly paid, then they will have a problem,” Henares said.
The BIR chief also reiterated the need to lift the bank secrecy law for tax purposes.
“I’ve always said that we should lift the bank secrecy law, because we should not be complicit in allowing a crime to be committed successfully. The government’s function is to prevent crime and if there’s a crime committed, to make sure that people are properly punished,” she said.
Since last year, the BIR and the Department of Finance (DOF) have been urging lawmakers to repeal the bank secrecy law for taxation purposes as well as include tax evasion as predicate crime to money laundering.
The DOF has been pointing out that the Philippines is one of the only three countries in the world with a bank secrecy law and that it is also one of just two countries where tax evasion is not a predicate crime under their antimoney laundering laws.
Criminal cases consolidated
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has consolidated the criminal cases filed by the AMLC against Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) former branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and those filed against businessmen Kam Sin Wong alias Kim Wong and Weikang Xu over the $81 million stolen by hackers from Bangladesh’s central bank.
“The latest AMLC complaint [against Wong and Xu] will be consolidated into the [Deguito] case,” Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial service, told reporters.
He said state prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamara would handle the consolidated cases.
The first case was filed on March 11 against Deguito and the four John Does who owned the bank accounts at RCBC—opened under the names of Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez
—that received the money wired from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The AMLC said the owners of the bank accounts gave fictitious identifications and addresses.
The cases against Wong and Xu were filed on March 22. The AMLC alleged that about $21.6 million of the laundered amount went to Wong while some $59.2 million to Xu.
Pacamara has already summoned Deguito for preliminary investigation on April 12 and 19.
Arellano said a separate subpoena would be issued in the next few days requiring Wong and Xu to appear before the prosecutor and answer the charges of money laundering filed against them by the AMLC.
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