AMLC checking 'money laundering offenses' in Makati probe

MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) confirmed on Wednesday, October 8, that the government is monitoring "possible money laundering offenses" in connection with Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee probe on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.

"Yes, I confirm that the AMLC and its secretariat are monitoring the progress of these hearings and we've been collating any relevant information that we get from these hearings which we can probably use in performing our functions, specifically investigating possible money laundering offenses in relation to any unlawful activity that may have been committed," AMLC executive director Julia Bacay-Abad told the Senate panel. 

Abad did not elaborate. She was excused from the Senate probe after giving the statement. 

The AMLC executive director was subpoenaed by the subcommittee last week upon the request of Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano. (READ: Senate invites AMLC to hearing on Makati building)

Cayetano had reported supposed "heavy [bank] withdrawals" of personalities dragged into the string of corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family. (READ: World-class prices for Binay's parking building)

"I was just reviewing all the information that is falling into our different offices. It is difficult to verify because of the bank secrecy law, but there are heavy withdrawals by certain persons that have been mentioned during the hearing specifically on issue of graft and corruption," Cayetano said at the hearing last week.

The AMLC has wide powers to monitor bank transactions. It automatically receives reports on all bank transactions that are more than P500,000. These are called "covered transactions."

AMLC also has the power to investigate "suspicious transactions," regardless of the amounts involved if "red flags" have been raised against the transactions.

In an earlier testimony, former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado told the Senate panel that Binay used “dummies” to purchase property and acquire businesses. (READ: Ex-ally: VP Binay used dummies to acquire land, businesses)

Cayetano sought the immediate investigation of supposed "fronts and dummies" used in the allegedly corrupt activities. He wants AMLC action before the dummies are able to withdraw the money, he said.

Juridictional challenge junked

At the 8th hearing of the Senate panel on Wednesday, Pimentel denied with finality the jurisdictional challenge raised by Makati Mayor Erwin Jejomar Binay Jr and several Makati City officials. 

Pimentel read out rules of the Senate enumerating the powers of the subcommittee, including the power to investigate.

The Binay camp had sought to stop the hearings by challenging the jurisdiction of the subcommittee by raising the matter to Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, who affirmed the powers of the subcommittee. (READ: Binays get no support from Guingona on jurisdiction challenge)

Mayor Binay appeared at the Senate probe in August but has since snubbed succeeding hearings. In a show cause letter submitted on Wednesday, the Makati Mayor cited the pending jurisdictional challenge. – Rappler.com