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Property in civil forfeiture valued at nearly P900 million — Diokno

REAL PROPERTY seized from criminals and subject to civil forfeiture as part of money-laundering prosecutions has been valued at nearly P900 million, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Chairman Benjamin E. Diokno said.

Mr. Diokno reminded the real estate industry of its responsibility to guard against money laundering risks.

“As of 2020, real estate with an estimated value of almost P900 million accounted for 22% of the total assets subject to civil forfeiture proceedings in the Philippines,” Mr. Diokno said in a speech delivered to the Real Estate Brokers Association of the Philippines (REBAP) Friday.

He added that the AMLC has confiscated outright nearly P30 million worth of real estate that was “used as a means to hide the proceeds of crime including terrorism financing.

Mr. Diokno said the dirty-money regulator recently filed a petition for civil forfeiture on assets, including a property in Cebu, connected to the illegal drug trade.

Real estate assets that are subject to freeze orders were also found to have links to terrorism financing, he added.

These cases demonstrate how illicit funds are parked in the formal economy, Mr. Diokno said.

“When used for business activities, the purchased real property, such as a hotel or restaurant, may also provide what appears to be a legitimate source of income,” he said.

Mr. Diokno noted how condominiums and other real property have been identified as assets of criminals in a majority of fraud, corruption, and illegal drug cases.

He told the REBAP to practice customer due diligence and to retain Know Your Customer records for property transactions for at least five years.

Following the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Republic Act 11521 passed in January included real estate developers and brokers as covered persons for the purpose of enforcing anti-money laundering laws. It also covered single-property cash transactions of over P7.5 million.

The Philippines is currently on the FATF gray list of jurisdictions that are obliged to prove their progress in implementing stricter anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Mr. Diokno is hopeful of exiting the list by January 2023. — Luz Wendy T. Noble

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