Proceeds from illegal drug trade had been discreetly invested through various property acquisitions or used in setting up of new business operations in the island of Bohol, which is considered by drug traffickers as a safe haven to keep their wealth away from detection by government authorities, according to military and police intelligence sources.
A highly-placed source, who has been doing research on illegal drugs in Ozamiz City, told The Bohol Tribune that he stumbled into this fresh information after the recent anti-drug operation in Ozamiz City which had resulted to the deaths of officials suspected of involvement in big-time illegal drug business.
The source, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that following the crackdown of illegal drug trade in Ozamiz, he was able to obtain new information on the complexity of the illegal drug trade from the ground, or from individuals who have been emboldened to come out in the open and have cooperated with authorities on what they know of the illegal drug trade in Mindanao and in the Visayas.
“Bohol is being looked up by drug lords as a safe place to keep their money,” the source said in Bisaya, adding that for years some of the drug networks allegedly linked with the Parojinogs had bought prime properties in Bohol and even developed them into business operations.
“It is very difficult for government to detect the trail of money once cash had been converted into a piece of property and invested as a legitimate business capital,” the source said.
“If the drug money is sitting in the banks, it can be uncovered by government investigators like the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” he said, but “once this money had been invested into real estate under new identities such as a corporate name, government regulators will have a hard time to determine the source of money capital.”
He said the same strategy on money laundering used in organized crime groups abroad is being applied by some drug traffickers in the Philippines.
Drug traders, for years, have been attracted to the tourism boom taking place in Bohol, and investing drug money in a place that has no tourism potential is not a wise decision, according to the source, mentioning the island of Panglao.
“Why would you keep your millions of pesos in a place that has no history of economic development or has no active business activity?” said the source. “You better put it in a place where its value would multiply in the long term.”
Asked why Bohol is a particular choice for investment by drug lords, the source disclosed that these drug traders have been successful in cloaking their identities here and those of their dummies when they acquire properties in Bohol.
“No one would suspect you in Bohol because people will assume that any new business or property development is part of the rise of the tourism industry,” the source said.
“I tell you this issue is worth looking into by authorities,” the source stressed. “It is really difficult to follow drug money trail, but it is not impossible. The government just needs to exert more efforts.”
The source added that drug money has also been used in building vacation houses and mansion-like residences in Bohol.
“Drug lords won’t invest in places like Siquijor and other poor provinces. It’s just not worth it. But Bohol has all the potentials for hiding and doubling your money,” the source said. (Bohol Tribune News Team)