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BFCSA: Commonwealth Bank's "racketeering missteps" in the sights of Hong Kong Monetary Authority

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Commonwealth Bank's missteps in the sights of Hong Kong Monetary Authority

Australian Financial Review Aug 11 2017 12:15 AM

Sarah Thompson, Anthony Macdonald, Joyce Moullakis


STREET TALK  Commonwealth Bank of Australia's compliance failures around money laundering and criminal activities have the Hong Kong Monetary Authority on high alert, with that government authority weighing its own course of action.

Street Talk understands HKMA, which is a government authority responsible for maintaining monetary and banking stability, is conducting its own review of AUSTRAC's explosive claims, and may opt to take the matter further including its own fines levelled at CBA.

HKMA's jurisdiction does appear to cover fines for bank's headquartered elsewhere. Earlier this year, it ordered the local branch of private bank Coutts & Co to pay a fine for breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist rules and in 2015 State Bank of India's Hong Kong branch was hit with a penalty.

Interestingly, the bulk of the international transfers linked to drug syndicates, which were detailed in AUSTRAC's statement of claim against CBA, went to accounts in Hong Kong.

The detail in the court documents outlined the extent and reach of the transfers, some of which led authorities to make arrests.

When contacted on Thursday, a HKMA spokesperson said he couldn't comment on specific matters regarding individual banks.

"We are monitoring the case and will review the information to assess relevant implications for Hong Kong," he said.

"Authorised Institutions (AIs) are required to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (Financial Institutions) Ordinance and relevant guideline, which is consistent with international standards.

"It should be noted that in Hong Kong, investigations concerning criminal activities and money laundering are undertaken by the Hong Kong Police and prosecuted by the Department of Justice.  The HKMA is responsible for monitoring AIs' compliance.

"The HKMA maintains close dialogue with overseas regulators both as part of its general day-to-day supervision of AIs and on a case-by-case basis but it is not appropriate for us to comment on details."

CBA, and its group executives led by chief executive Ian Narev, remain under fire as they compile a defence to AUSTRAC's civil court action.

Australia's central bank along with HKMA and nine others are part of the Executives’ Meeting of East Asia-Pacific (EMEAP) Central Banks. [According to its website, EMEAP “is a cooperative organisation of central banks and monetary authorities … (whose) primary objective is to strengthen the cooperative relationship among its members.” Those members are: Reserve Bank of Australia, People’s Bank of China, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Bank Indonesia, Bank of Japan, The Bank of Korea, Bank Negara Malaysia, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Monetary Authority of Singapore, Bank of Thailand. –RJB]



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