BOC confirms $370M in dirty money entered PH with PNP, AFP, airport escorts
Two suspected syndicates brought into the Philippines at least $370 million (P18.7 billion) in foreign dirty money that Sen. Richard Gordon had flagged as possibly being used for criminal activities in the Philippines, the Department of Finance said on Monday (March 2).
Citing a Jan. 29 report of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, the DOF said the two groups had been identified as “Chinese,” which sneaked in $167.97 million; and “Rodriguez,” which had a bigger $200.24 million.
Guerrero confirmed Gordon’s information that the Chinese group brought in foreign currencies between Dec. 17, 2019 until January this year.
In the case of the Rodriguez group, Guerrero disclosed that it had been infusing money into Excellent Forex Inc. from July 17, 2019 until January.
The couriers of these suspected dirty money get paid P12,000 to P50,000 per flight—and they do so twice or thrice a week carrying up to two pieces of luggage packed with cash, Guerrero said.
Also, these couriers had been “able to escape detection because they are escorted by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or of the airport police department at the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA),” the DOF quoted Guerrero as saying.
In response, Dominguez had ordered the BOC to work with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in investigating the entry of this dirty money.
In his report, the DOF quoted Guerrero as saying that there had been “several attempts by individuals and groups to sneak in large amounts of US dollars and other foreign currency into the country using travelers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).”
Guerrero said this would need an interagency body to not only monitor foreign cash entry in different ports but also deter money laundering.
Guerrero said the money being laundered into the Philippines could be used for terrorism and organized crime.
He proposed that President Rodrigo Duterte issue a directive to create an interagency body to “monitor the continuous inflow of foreign currencies by individual couriers.”
The body would also “profile the personalities involved and the recipient” of the laundered money and propose measures to make sure that such funds would not be used for crimes.
The BOC chief said current laws on undeclared as well as underdeclared foreign currency were “not categorical, and sanctions provided are not deterrent enough.”
He said such activity would be meted “far more severe” penalties in the United States where bringing in huge amounts of cash would be tantamount to “bulk cash smuggling.”
“It is not farfetched that the ease of bringing foreign currency in our territory can be taken advantage of by lawless elements such as terrorists,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero had also informed legislators about this development, citing this could be a “possible basis of policy changes on the protocol to be observed regarding hand-carried foreign currencies passing through our airports.”
The BOC chief had already informed the AMLC and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) regarding the surge in foreign currencies entering the country.
Since 2018, the BOC caught at least three cases of non-declaration and underdeclaration by two Filipinos and a South Korean of huge amounts of money beyond what was allowed by law, the DOF said.
Edited by TSB
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