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Barbers warns POGOs can be used for money laundering, drug trade

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chair Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Sur) on Sunday raised his concern over the continuing proliferation of offshore gaming hubs in the country.

In a statement, Barbers warned that gaming hubs that employ Chinese nationals could be used in other illegal activities such as money laundering and illegal drug trade.

Barbers said he received multiple reports that at least 46 of the 58 POGO hubs that were allowed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) were operating in country despite being unregistered local and foreign corporations.

“This requires a deep, profound and perhaps long and tedious investigation,” he said.

“These POGOs could possibly result to links in illegal drugs and organized crimes,” he added.

Barbers warned that the growing POGO industry might “undermine the local anti-money laundering and anti-drug and criminality campaigns.”

The Surigao solon cited a report from the United Nations that gaming firms are being used them as a money laundering tool just like what the Italy-based mafia and drug syndicates from Macau and Cambodia did.

He said PAGCOR should not only think of the financial gains the government may rake from these POGO firms as they need to also consider the security, social, immigration, labor and related problems that these firms may create to the Filipinos, and the country as well, in the near future.

“In short, our authorities should determine the beneficial owners and workers of these POGO firms. Are they of good repute and are not associated with persons with questionable reputation, character, honesty and integrity?” he said.

Barbers also urged his colleagues in Congress to step in to enact and impose strict laws and rules and regulations on the local online gaming and casino operations to prevent any possibility of the Philippines becoming a haven for money laundering activities of foreign drugs syndicates and other crime groups.

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