Published 25 January 2019, The Daily Tribune

“There’s an old saying in law enforcement: The bad guys need to get lucky every time. The good guys need to get lucky once,” says the narrator in the hit web television series Narcos. This aphorism speaks about the risk being taken by criminals to avoid the net of law enforcement. Criminals in their day-to-day operations have to create a system that lessens the risk of being caught by law enforcement. But law enforcers, as agents of the State, need only a small crack in this system in order to bring down criminals and their organizations.

Money laundering is not exempt from this aphorism. One of the reasons people engage in criminal activity is to gain large amounts of money. To combat this sudden increase in wealth due to criminal activities, governments created safeguards to check on their citizens by using the sudden increase as a smoking gun for illegal activities. The criminals, responding to this government intervention, had to “clean” money from their criminal activities by making them appear to come from legal means. Hence the moniker, money “laundering.”

The legal definition of money laundering, according to the amended Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, is an act committed by any person who, knowing that any monetary instrument or property relates to the proceeds of any unlawful activity: (a) transacts said monetary instrument or property; (b) converts, transfers, disposes of, moves, acquires, possesses or uses said monetary instrument or property; (c) conceals or disguises the true nature, source, location, disposition, movement or ownership of or rights with respect to said monetary instrument or property; (d) attempts or conspires to commit money laundering offenses referred to in (a), (b) or (c); (e) aids, abets, assists in or counsels the commission of the money laundering offenses referred to in (a), (b) or (c); and (f) performs or fails to perform any act as a result of which he facilitates the offense of money laundering referred to in (a), (b) or (c).

Said law has been amended several times through R.A. 9194, R.A. 10167, and R.A. 10365 to strengthen the Philippine’s initiative against money launderers. The most recent of which is Republic Act No. 10927 (R.A. 10927). This newly-minted law amended AMLA to effectively include casinos into the fold of extensive government regulation against money laundering.

R.A. 10927 contains three (3) salient provisions on casinos. First, it included casinos as a covered person, with respect to casino cash transactions related to gaming operations. Second, it included as a covered transaction a single casino cash transaction in excess of five million pesos (P5,000,000.00) or its equivalent in any currency. Third, it provided the legal definitions of casino (including those that are internet and ship-based), casino cash transaction, and gaming operations.

With the addition of casinos as a covered institution under the AMLA, several compliance and reportorial requirements have to be met by such establishments. Dire consequences await those who violate it.

Covered institutions have to establish and record the true identity of its clients based on official documents. A system of verifying the true identity of their clients is to be maintained. In case of corporate clients, the system should verify their legal existence and organizational structure. The authority and identity of persons acting on behalf of corporation clients should also be included. Record of all transactions shall be safely stored for five (5) years from the dates of transactions. With respect to closed accounts, the records on customer identification, account files and business correspondence, are to be preserved and safely stored for at least five (5) years from the dates when they were closed.  Covered persons have to report to the AMLC all covered transactions within five (5) working days from occurrence, unless the AMLC prescribes a different period not exceeding fifteen (15) working days. When reporting such transactions to the AMLC, covered persons and their officers and employees are prohibited from communicating, directly or indirectly, by any means, to any person or entity, the media, the fact that a covered transaction has been reported or is about to be reported, the contents of the report, or any other information in relation thereto. If the offender is a corporate entity, the responsible officer and/or the director or trustee who willfully voted or assented to such violation will suffer the penalty.

Some have expressed the view that the violators are always a step ahead of the regulators and that the regulators are always on catch-up mode. The inclusion of casinos as covered institutions was simply in reaction to a recent incident where proceeds of cyber heist were allegedly laundered thru casinos. What is the next frontier for money laundering? Your guess is as good as mine. One thing is for certain though. Sooner or later, the long arm of the law will catch up with the violators.

For comments and questions, please send email to