Philippine regulators are reviewing foreign exchange rules to prevent money launderers from using the black market, the Philippine Daily Inquirer learned Sunday.
Leading the review is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Philippine Central Bank), which is looking at better ways of tracking the flow of money into the Philippines, after the laundering through the country’s financial system of US$81 million stolen by computer hackers from the American accounts of the central bank of Bangladesh last month.
The review is taking a look at the role that the black market possibly played in transferring the $81 million from the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City, where the hackers had wired it, and transferring the dirty money to other banks and casinos.
Industry sources said the BSP had asked the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) to suggest measures to better regulate the foreign exchange sector.
$2-MILLION DAILY LIMIT
A BAP committee tasked to look into the matter met last week and decided to recommend an increase in the amount of foreign exchange that banks could sell to residents without prior BSP approval from $120,000 to $2 million.
“The BSP requires banks to ask customers for documents to sell dollars over $120,000 per day. If you allow banks to have a higher limit, and hopefully open it up without limit, corporations and the public in need of dollars need not buy from the black market,” one banker said.
The BAP has long been proposing to increase the threshold for foreign exchange transactions without prior approval, but after the RCBC scandal bankers themselves are looking to raise the daily limit to $2 million.
“We believe the bulk of the black market [or] money service broker deals are in that level, but [it’s] best if they leave the amount open to prevent deals from going underground,” the banker said.
According to industry estimates, 85 per cent of foreign exchange transactions in the Philippines are conducted outside the banking system.
But foreign exchange and money-changing services outside the banking system are not illegal.
They are required to be registered and are also covered by the antimoney laundering law like the banks.
Some argue that they need to be part of the entire ecosystem to grease the financial system.
But to prevent foreign exchange deals that are really meant to go underground, some bankers suggest the tightening of regulations for money changers.
Copyright: Philippine Daily Inquirer/ Asian News Network