Gordon wants probe on big bucks brought in by Chinese

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The Senate will investigate the huge amounts of cash brought into the country by Chinese nationals in recent months, a lawmaker said Thursday. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 28) — The Senate will investigate the huge amounts of cash brought into the country by Chinese nationals in recent months, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Senator Richard Gordon said a number of Chinese visitors who arrived in December to February brought in a total of $180 million in cash.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman said the concerned government body should also look into the issue.

"AMLC (Anti Money Laundering Council) should check. Did they go to the banking system? Did they go to the casino? And how much taxes are being paid by the casino kung ganyan kalalaki volume [if the volume is that big?]," he said.

The large amount was declared as gambling money but the senator raised some questions.

"We have to track where it's (money) going. Gambling? Fine. Can you use the money for elections. Can you use the money for other things. Bribing people etc.," he said.

Gordon said these Chinese nationals boarded an aicraft in Hong Kong for the Philippines. There is no currency control in Hong Kong, he added.

Senator Joel Villanueva said he shares Gordon's thoughts on the "inordinate" amount of cash for gambling.

"Gambling, in any form or kind, attracts criminal activities as we have seen in the previous months and years," said Villanueva.

Earlier this week, China began its crackdown on Chinese nationals working illegally for Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO). The Bureau of International Revenue said over ₱27 billion worth of tax liabilities remain uncollected from the POGO sector.

Villanueva, also chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, said POGOs only contribute 0.04 percent to the gross domestic product.

"It is clear that the supposed economic benefit to our country is negligible at best....We should stop the operations of POGOs now," he said.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has stopped accepting applications for POGO licenses in August last year.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also commended Gordon for pointing out the influx of money from Chinese visitors. He said these Chinese nationals should have been placed under close watch or a background check for possible criminal activity.

"Problem is, everything has been prearranged and payoffs already made to concerned agencies in a well-coordinated and organized manner," he said.

Lacson was referring to the recent controversy involving the Bureau of Immigration wherein personnel would allow easy entry of Chinese nationals for a fee. A witness from the bureau said about 90 percent of the agency's employees were in on the scheme.

President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the relief and replacement of the immigration personnel involved in the scam.