Philippines Senator Questions AML Over POGOs

The news for the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) and those organisations that are called upon to manage the operations continues to be worrying.

Senator Richard Gordon of the Philippines called for clarification on March 3, questioning how the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) regulates POGOs in a plenary session of the Senate.

Gordon expressed his concern that while multiple inquiries are under way, the AMLC was practically silent. It has been discovered in the previous two weeks alone that officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) have been working with operators of POGOs to help Chinese migrants enter the country illegally by providing false documentation. These measures have been done to help these migrants operate in these activities, despite not having the legal status to do so.

Now it’s being reported that there has been a killing of a Chinese POGO employee, who was shot during an apparent trade contract. Two men were arrested and charged for the murder. Both were found to have fake People’s Liberation Army (PLA) IDs, but their attempt to trade large sums of cash had Gordon questioning if China was smuggling money into the Philippines to fund espionage.

It also has Gordon asking what is happening in organisations such as the AMLC, which are supposed to track for money laundering issues. During the session on March 3, Gordon admitted that the concerns of Senator Joel Villanueva over the AMLC covering suspicious transactions involving Chinese-owned POGOs and POGO service providers are a valid concern.

During the hearing, Villanueva, who is the chairman of the Senate Labor and Employment Committee, noted that only 11 of the 59 POGO operations are focused in Philippine. It means that 48 of the businesses are based overseas, with a further 229 service providers.

Villanueva asked if there is any information concerning the operations ‘ alleged illegal conduct. In his reply Gordon said: “Actually, Mr. President, I don’t want to insult the AMLC, but their silence is deafening. I would have imagined them to be more aggressive in telling us that this is a problem we can do something about.”

A Senate hearing on March 5 is set to look into charges of money smuggling and laundering. The Bureau of Customs (BoC) reports, according to Gordon, that 47 individuals brought a total of US$ 447.07 million or P22.69 billion “dirty” cash into the country from September 2019 through February 2020. This money has been brought to the designated country for investment in foreign exchange, transportation, and casino, and business purposes.