East West Banking Corp. of the Gotianun family warned clients not to accept money from people they don’t know or face the consequences including a hefty fine and a jail term.
“When someone offers to pay you a commission to simply transfer or deposit money into your bank account, you could be unwittingly acting as a money mule,” EastWest Bank said in a letter to clients.
A money mule is someone who moves illegally acquired money on behalf of other persons, usually for a commission or a fee. This is prohibited under Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended.
“You can get up to seven years of jail time and a fine of up to P3 million. To be safe, don’t accept money from people you don’t know,” EastWest added.
Based on the COVID-19 financial crime analysis of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), more than 13,000 transactions were flagged as suspected pass-through or money mule accounts with a total estimated value of P197 million during the height of the enhanced community quarantine in January and April 2020.
According to AMLC, majority of the transactions were reported by an electronic money issuer (EMI), citing possible abuse of its digital know-your-customer or customer due diligence (KYC/CDD) process to create suspected pass-through accounts.
Although these were filed within the ECQ period, the AMLC said transactions could cover a wider period. Most were identified to be residents of various provinces in Luzon.
These account holders were profiled as tricycle drivers, loading station owners, freelancers, sari-sari store owners, fruit vendors, and private employees, who declared business proceeds and salaries as source of funds.