DOJ eyes POGO ‘dirty money’ probe

March 04, 2020

THE Department of Justice is now coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into reports that Philippine online gaming operations (POGOs) were being used as fronts to launder money. 

“We’ve already coordinated with the ALMC to make sure that the matter is looked into and if there are appropriate complaints or criminal complaints that need to be pursued, we have told them that we are ready to help them pursue these cases,” Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said. 

Also, the National Bureau of Investigation said that a task force will be created to look into money laundering activities involving Chinese nationals and POGOs. 

NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said the agency is just waiting for an inter-agency meeting that would move for the creation of the task force.

“There has to be an inter-agency consultative meeting first on how we should address this,” he told reporters.

The NBI spokesman said the task force could be composed of the NBI, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

In the meantime, he gave assurances that the NBI, BIR and AMLC are already working together to look into these money laundering activities.

“That is being looked into with the BIR…together with AMLC,” Lavin said. 

Recently, AMLC started to look into Chinese travelers who had brought huge amounts of money into the country as revealed by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairperson of the powerful Senate Blue Ribbon committee. 

According to Gordon, several dozen Chinese visitors hand-carried more than $160 million (P8.19 billion) in cash between December 2019 and February this year.

Gordon, citing records from the Bureau of Customs (BOC), said it was likely that the money would be laundered in the Philippines and this appeared to be tolerated by the authorities.

Also, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it was unbridled corruption that had allowed Chinese citizens to hand-carry such large amounts of money without being accosted at the airport.

Several non-Chinese travelers, who arrived in the country from Singapore, declared they carried more than $25 million during the same period—from December 17, 2019, to February 12.

“I’m glad that Gordon has provided some details about this nefarious trade involving these Chinese tourists, who never had it so good in laundering their money, dirty or otherwise, but mostly dirty,” Lacson said. #