Finance chief orders Customs to work with AMLC on dirty money probe

Robie de Guzman
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Monday, March 2, ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to closely coordinate with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in probing alleged attempts by syndicates to bring in large sums of foreign currency into the country.

Dominguez issued the order in response to the BOC report about several attempts by individuals and groups to sneak in copious amounts of dollars and other foreign currency into the country using travelers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The DOF said Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero estimated in his report that $370 million or around P18.74 billion were brought into the country by two groups, identified as the “Rodriguez” and the “Chinese” groups.  

Guerrero said that through backtracking and monitoring, the bureau learned that the Rodriguez Group brought around $200.24 million or around P10.18 billion while the Chinese group was able to sneak in $167.97 million, equivalent to about P8.54 billion.

The bureau further found that the Rodriguez group had declared Excellent Forex Inc. as the recipient of the money which entered from July 2019 to January 2020.

The Chinese group, meanwhile, brought its stash from December 2019 to January 2020.

The BOC also found that couriers of the money are paid between P12,000 and P50,000 per flight which happens almost twice or thrice a week.

The bureau said couriers of the money are able to escape detection because they are escorted by police, military or airport officials.

“Alarmed by the foregoing circumstances, considering the apparent intent of the said groups to bypass the country’s banking system and its prevailing regulations, this Bureau coordinated with and brought the matter to the attention of the AMLC,” Guerrero said in his January 29 report to Dominguez.

“Since then, this Bureau and the AMLC remain in close communication regarding this concern. The NICA was likewise apprised of the said facts,” he added.

The BOC chief has recommended the creation of an inter-agency body to keep a tight watch on the inflow of foreign currency into the country through the country’s ports and to recommend measures to deter the use of these funds for illegal activities.

This concern has also been raised to members of the Congress “as possible basis of policy changes on the protocol to be observed regarding hand-carried foreign currencies passing through our airports.”

“Given the global threat of terrorism, organized crimes, money laundering and the possibility that such foreign currencies find their way to such unlawful activities, it is respectfully recommended that an inter-agency body be established through a presidential directive, purposely organized to monitor the continuous inflow of foreign currencies by individual couriers, profile the personalities involved and the recipient thereof, and recommend measures to ensure that such sums of money will not be used in any illegal trade or activities,” Guerrero said in his report.

Under Philippine laws, any person is required to declare any amount exceeding $10,000 or its equivalent to other foreign currency being brought into or out of the country.

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