(Bloomberg) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte backs a probe into cases of dollar smuggling after a lawmaker sounded the alarm on large amounts of cash brought in by Chinese nationals assisted by local authorities.
“It will be investigated,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a briefing Tuesday.
The Bureau of Customs has identified two syndicates known as “Rodriguez” and “Chinese” it says has brought in $200 million and $168 million respectively since mid-2019, according to a Department of Finance statement on Monday.
The money is brought in by couriers traveling two-to-three times a week and paid between 12,000 pesos ($237) and 50,000 pesos per flight, the finance department said. Military and police officers escort them upon their arrival at the Manila airport, enabling them to skip checks, it said.
The finance department statement came days after Senator Richard Gordon, who heads the chamber’s blue ribbon committee, called for an investigation on the influx of Chinese nationals and the “inordinate amount of money” they bring.
About $180 million in cash was transported from China from December to February, Gordon said on Feb. 28. Travelers can carry up to $10,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency into or out of the Philippines.
In August last year, the Chinese embassy in Manila said a huge amount of gambling-related funds were flowing illegally out of China and into the Philippines, pushing back on the Philippines’ online gaming sector that targets gamblers in mainland and employs hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers.
Last month, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said that some immigration officials allow Chinese nationals without credentials to enter so they can work in online casinos. That prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order a revamp in airport immigration.
(Adds Duterte spokesman’s comments from first paragraph.)
–With assistance from Ditas Lopez and Cecilia Yap.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cecilia Yap at [email protected], Clarissa Batino, Ruth Pollard
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