Hong Kong's efforts against money laundering recognised

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 4:09am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 12:44am

We share the view in your editorial that "Hong Kong cannot afford to give the world the impression that this is a haven for money laundering" ("Step up the war on dirty money", March 10).

Hong Kong has established a robust anti-money-laundering regime, benchmarking international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force. The government is strongly committed to enforcing a vigorous legal framework in preventing and combating money laundering.

The implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (Financial Institutions) Ordinance in April 2012 has improved our anti-money-laundering regime significantly and aligned it with the relevant task force standards.

The task force recognised Hong Kong's efforts and agreed unanimously among members in October 2012 to remove Hong Kong from its "follow-up process" in its regular mutual evaluation.

Successful conviction of recent cases shows our determination and efficacy among law enforcement agencies and financial regulators in combating money laundering.

Last year, a record of 43 restraint orders and 34 confiscation orders were obtained against offenders who benefited from their crimes. Also in 2013, the amount of restrained assets, at HK$1.35 billion, was three times more than in 2008. The courts ordered more than HK$700 million to be confiscated by the government, 35 times more than in 2008.

We have difficulty following a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, as it was said to be based on some responses from 116 executives based in Hong Kong and Macau. Indeed, it does not appear appropriate to draw conclusions of both places collectively.

While it appears from the survey that 37 per cent of those Hong Kong and Macau respondents who had experienced economic crimes pointed towards money laundering, we understand the survey noted that only 16 per cent of respondents from Hong Kong and Macau reported experiencing economic crimes in general, much lower than the reported rates in Asia-Pacific and globally.

The rise of suspicious transaction reports, from more than 14,800 in 2008 to almost 33,000 last year, shows an increasing level of public awareness of the need to report suspicious transactions to facilitate the police's investigation.

Our law enforcement agencies will enforce the relevant legislation, investigate money laundering offences, and prosecute wrongdoers firmly. Financial regulators will ensure institutions comply stringently with the customer due diligence and record-keeping requirements under the ordinance.

Jackie Liu, principal assistant secretary for financial services and the treasury (financial services)