MANILA, Philippines — The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has ordered banks and other financial institutions to include in their suspicious transaction reports (STRs) the identities of the beneficial owners or account holders as the country continues to ramp up its fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
In an advisory, the country’s sole financial intelligence unit said all covered persons under Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 as amended are required to submit STRs.
“STRs must be complete, accurate, and timely as they are vital sources of financial intelligence and are essential in the investigation and prosecution of money laundering, terrorism financing, and other related cases or crimes,” AMLC said.
The AMLC Registration and Reporting Guidelines (ARRG) emphasized the importance of answering the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why) and one H (how) questions when filing an STR.
“In addition, the ARRG provides that the narrative field of the STR should contain all the details and events leading to the suspicion, including other information that may be of help or importance to the report,” it said.
The AMLC explained that the details of the individual or entity suspected to be engaged or involved in a predicate crime and/or money laundering activity answer the “who” question.
“An essential element of this is information on beneficial owners of the account, whenever applicable,” the AMLC said.
Last June 25, Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) reincluded the Philippines in the gray list or jurisdictions under increased monitoring after the country failed to address strategic deficiencies to counter money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing.
AMLC said the importance of beneficial ownership information was highlighted in Recommendations 24 and 25 of the global dirty money watchdog covering the transparency and beneficial ownership of legal persons; and the transparency and beneficial ownership of legal arrangements, respectively.
Recommendation 24 of the FATF provides that competent authorities should be able to obtain or should have access in a timely fashion to adequate, accurate, and current information on the beneficial ownership and control of companies and other legal persons that are created in the country.
On the other hand, Recommendation 25 states that countries should require trustees of any express trust governed under their law to obtain and hold adequate, accurate, and current beneficial ownership information regarding the trust.
Also, one of the action plans in the Philippine mutual evaluation report of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) is to enhance and streamline law enforcement agencies’ access to beneficial ownership information and taking steps to ensure that beneficial ownership information is accurate and up to date.
“The beneficial ownership information in the STRs will be a valuable contribution to this action plan. The name/s of the beneficial owner/s and all relevant information may be indicated in the narrative field of the STR,” AMLC added.
In November 2018, AMLC executive director Mel Georgie Racela issued AMLC Regulatory Issuance A, B, and C No. 3 laying down the guidelines in identifying beneficial ownership.
The regional affiliate of the FATF earlier said the Philippines has made notable progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.
This prompted the APG to move the Philippines to enhanced follow-up list from the enhanced (expedited) list after completing the second follow up report on the mutual evaluation report of the country.
Those under the enhanced follow-up are countries subject to a more intensive process of follow-up due to significant deficiencies for technical compliance or effectiveness in their AML/CFT systems, while those under enhanced (expedited) are countries with very serious deficiencies.
AMLC chairman and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno remains confident the Philippines would be removed from the gray list on or before January 2023.
Article and Photo originally posted by Philippine Star last September 9, 2021 12:00am and written by Lawrence Agcaoili.