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Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, together with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, presides over the public hearing on the alleged money laundering, crimes, and other nefarious activities associated with the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country, at the Senate in Pasay City on Thursday (March 5, 2020). Resource persons include Atty. Mel Georgie Racela (inset, upper right), Anti Money Laundering Council Secretariat executive director; and BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier (inset, lower right), among others. (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

‘Hot money’ reaches P32-B

Foreign currencies entering the country for the last seven months have reached $633 million or P32 billion as of 5 March this year. 

Senator Richard Gordon revealed that 60 individuals were identified to have brought in the money. The revelation was made at the opening of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s inquiry on the alleged money laundering scheme and other criminal activities linked to the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO). 

Gordon said in a privilege speech that $447.07 million or P22.69 billion in cash were brought in by 47 individuals including some Filipinos in the Philippines from September 2019 to February 2020. 

The said money was brought in the country in “cold cash.” 

Gordon warned the money being brought in can be used in money laundering schemes. He said this could be associated with the POGO. 

Based on the list of individuals who brought in millions of foreign currencies in cash in the country from September 2019 to February 2020, 49.77% were declared to be used for foreign exchange, 16.23% for investments, 15.01% for travel and casino, 8.27 for casino, 2.77% for business, 1.81% for travel while purposes of the 6.14% of the amount was not specified. 

Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Georgie Racela denied any knowledge on the $633 million that entered the money. 

Racela said in the entire 2019, there are $336 million, 2.749 billion Japanese Yen and 215 million Hong Kong dollars that entered the country. 

Gordon further said that from 3 to 5 March there have been seven new arrivals where six individuals brought in a total of $6,130,000 or P310.16 million in just five days. 

The senator chided the AMLC official over its slow action in investigating reports of individuals carrying huge amount of foreign currencies in the country. 

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier said they only conducted an investigation on the suspicious money flow on February 2020. 

Gordon pointed out that AMLC relies on reports from BoC, which is in charge of monitoring the amount of cash entering the country. Despite doing its job, the BSP and the AMLC is not taking action on the reports from the bureau. 

He further explained that the actions from the agency which is in charge to prevent any money laundering schemes are too late. 

“I’m shocked beyond imagination. That’s bureaucracy at its worst form.” 

Amid the allegations that some policemen are being used by syndicates to smuggle money into the country, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Archie Gamboa vowed they will look into the claims. 

“We will check on that because some say that it’s also possible that the Aviation Security Group is involved since they have access at the airports,” Gamboa said. “I believe that police cannot enter those areas unless they are members of the AVESGroup.” 

The PNP chief added that the probe should not solely be done by the police organization, stressing that the BI and the BoC should act on it, too. 

“I think this should be a government concern. On our part, we will check our personnel but I think that Customs and the Bureau of Immigration should also investigate,” Gamboa said. 

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