AMLC taps PDEA to probe financial transactions of drug money launderers

Published November 4, 2021, 4:45 PM

by Chito Chavez

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has deputized the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as financial investigator, a move that is seen as a boost in the country’s fight against drug money launderers.

In a statement, the Deputized Anti-Money Laundering Council Financial Investigators (DAFIs) are PDEA personnel assigned to investigate the financial instruments like bank accounts and insurance policies used to launder drug money.

Usually, financial investigations are undertaken by the AMLC on suspicious transactions, covered transactions deemed suspicious, money laundering (ML) and terrorism financing (TF) activities and violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA).

“Evidence from predicate crimes such as drug cases filed by the PDEA are provided to the AMLC in order to establish probable cause required in the filing of applications for bank inquiry, petitions for freeze orders, civil forfeiture cases, and criminal complaints for ML,’’ the PDEA statement issued on Thursday, Nov. 4, read.

With the deputation of the PDEA DAFIs, the agency’s personnel will now be able to take on the role of AMLC Financial Investigators which is a tremendous boost to money laundering investigations considering the limited number of AMLC investigators.

“The close cooperation between the PDEA and the AMLC has been crucial in preventing drug trafficking groups from using the country’s banking system in laundering drug money,’’ PDEA added.

From 2011 to 2018, the AMLC had reportedly frozen more than P2 billion worth of assets of suspected drug personalities.

In 2017, forensic data provided by PDEA enabled the AMLC to successfully freeze some 160 accounts and insurance policies in 16 banks and three other financial institutions that convicted drug lord Peter Co and his associates that were allegedly used to facilitate more than P10 billion in transactions for over a decade.

PDEA and AMLC in Sept. successfully obtained freeze orders against the assets of drug personalities Julie Hao Gamboa, and spouses Ruben and Teresita Taguba who are all linked to the smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of shabu into the country.

The freeze order covers 173 bank and credit accounts, insurance policies, 17 real properties, and five motor vehicles belonging to the suspects.

“The deputation of PDEA officers as AMLC Financial Investigators is the latest of several mechanisms designed to cut the flow of proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs. With the rapid increase of innovations in banking and finance such as internet banking and a multitude money transfer services available to the public, PDEA and the AMLC see the need to innovate and forge closer relationships with its stakeholders in order to stay several steps ahead of narcotics trafficking groups,’’ PDEA noted. (Chito A. Chavez)