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Panama – Panama looks to change money laundering laws

By - 4 March 2015

The Association of Managers of Gaming (ASAJA) has requested that members of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), make a number of changes to its Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism bill.

The government is now developing new laws alongside the Financial Action Task Force to improve a number of deficiencies in its anti money laundering laws.

The association has asked that two changes are made to the law. The first is that in its draft form the bill stipulates that a percentage of fines should be destined to financing the Financial Analysis Action Taskforce. The ASAJA has objected to this move saying that a percentage of fines should instead be given to training and educational programmes.

Secondly, according to the ASAJA, new laws would make it obligatory for casinos to report additional details of its customers. Casinos would have to provide the same quantity of data regarding clients and transactions as a bank, which they argue casinos would be unable to provide do due to the nature of the business.

Under current rules a number of business sectors including casinos are characterised as specially “regulated entities” and must fulfil a number of additional obligations when it comes to the reporting of financial transactions. The casino sector in the past has reported a number of transactions including, the name of the customer, and other data modelled after laws in place which regulate gaming in other jurisdictions such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Money laundering has been a growing problem for the casino sector. In August 2014 the ASAJA claimed that casinos were unable to open bank accounts due to the fact that they had become unfairly associated with money laundering. In addition casinos are increasingly having problems with the money transfer agencies authorised to operate in the Republic of Panama – a situation which is particularly serious in light of the fact that casinos all operate under licence by the state. However, casinos are sometimes being denied banking services due to fear that cash payments in casinos have made them vulnerable to money laundering practices by criminal elements.

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