SAR laws on 'dirty' cash to be tightened

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2001, 12:00am

Hong Kong must toughen its asset seizure laws to meet new international obligations in the fight against terrorism, Commissioner for Narcotics Clarie Lo Ku Ka-lee warned yesterday.

Recent UN resolutions demand the ability to seize terrorist funds in a way not covered by Hong Kong's laws. 'I am keen for these laws to be implemented as soon as possible and we are in the process of drafting the necessary changes,' Ms Lo said.

'It is something we must do to meet our international commitments but I don't believe it will impact in any way on our role as a leading financial centre. Hong Kong is already very rigorous in this regard and it will not be hard for us to do.'

Hong Kong laws allow for the seizure of drug traffickers' assets and funds used for other serious crimes, but unless terrorists use funds directly for illegal purposes their assets can escape seizure.

A UN Security Council resolution passed in late September following the attacks on New York and Washington tries to close the loophole.

Ms Lo's comments followed a meeting in Washington of the Financial Action Taskforce on Money Laundering - a body of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Ms Lo heads the taskforce.

The meeting called for full reporting of suspicious transactions and better scrutiny of non-profit-making organisations that finance terrorism.

Ms Lo said no assets linked to Saudi radical Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaeda network had been found in Hong Kong.

She said the SAR was well-placed to police future movements despite its role as a banking hub and its many small foreign-remittance dealers.