HK ready to freeze any bin Laden funds
Hong Kong is ready to freeze any assets it finds of Osama bin Laden and his associates once the drafting of relevant regulations is completed next month, officials said yesterday.
The move was revealed as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority issued circulars to around 250 banks to be on alert for 27 people and organisations - including bin Laden - the US believes are linked to terror attacks.
The 27 were listed in an executive order issued on Monday by US President George W. Bush, demanding the seizure of all US property of terrorists and their supporters and banning all financial dealings with them.
The monetary authority said in its circulars that the order appeared to apply to US companies, their overseas branches and the US branches of foreign-incorporated institutions, including Hong Kong ones.
It also said it was seeking clarification of the legal implications of the order and reminded all banks to check if they had accounts, transactions or dealings with the 27.
But a spokesman for the authority said last night: 'We're not aware of any accounts related to the 27 entities listed in the order.'
Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said: 'There is no evidence to suggest any funds or accounts related to bin Laden are in Hong Kong.'
She said there were laws enabling police to trace, freeze and confiscate the proceeds of terrorists in the SAR if their activities were related to serious crimes.
Mrs Ip revealed commerce officials were drafting regulations to enable the Government to freeze the assets of the Taleban, bin Laden and his associates in the al-Qaeda organisation in accordance with a UN resolution last December which requested all member states to step up sanctions.
The Commerce and Industry Bureau last night confirmed it had received an order from Beijing to extend the resolution to Hong Kong.
US Consul-General Michael Klosson said the consulate was pleased with the anti-terrorist and security measures taken by the SAR Government.
He said the consulate would continue to review security measures as tensions intensified in the Middle East.
Mr Klosson said there had been a 30 per cent surge in the number of Americans in Hong Kong who had registered with the consulate over the past two weeks and called on those still unregistered to come forward.
Mrs Ip and Mr Klosson were speaking after a ceremony to mark the sharing of confiscated drug proceeds with the US and Australia. Hong Kong and the US each netted half the US$8.8 million (HK$69 million) drug proceeds of Jose Gonzales Rodriguez-Gacha, a leading figure in a Colombia-based narcotics syndicate that opened bank accounts in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong and Australia each shared half the US$1.8 million proceeds of drug lord Bruce Michael McCauley, who was arrested in Australia.