The front page headline in yesterday's South China Morning Post, 'Super-rich want to leave mainland', missed one important detail. The rich may well want to leave, but only if they can take their money with them. That's a problem, because under Beijing's currency rules, anyone leaving can only carry with them a maximum of 20,000 yuan (HK$24,450) or the equivalent of US$5,000 in foreign currency. That won't get you very far if you want to set up house in Monte Carlo, or even in Kowloon, come to that. Happily for the mainland's itchy-footed rich, Beijing's capital controls are porous. There are dozens of ways the well-heeled can illicitly ship money out of the country. And there are strong signs the wealthy are making increasing use of them. That shouldn't be too surprising. Right now, there is little incentive to keep capital in the mainland. The Shanghai stock market has fallen 18 per cent over the past 12 months. Government restrictions have killed off price rises in the major property markets. And with the interest rate on savings deposits below the rate of inflation, you are losing money if you keep it in the bank. As a result, growth in bank deposits has stalled in recent months, and with economic activity slowing, there are signs that hot money is flooding out of the country. According to official figures, China's foreign exchange reserves fell by US$61 billion in September. Most analysts attributed this drop to valuation losses. Because Beijing announces its foreign reserves in US dollar terms, if the US dollar rises on the foreign exchange market, the non-US dollar portion of China's foreign reserves falls in value. That's what happened in September. As the euro crisis deepened, the US dollar rose by 6.8 per cent against a broad basket of currencies. If we assume Beijing holds 30 per cent of its reserves in non-dollar assets, that means it would have suffered a valuation loss of US$62 billion, roughly the same as the decline in reserves. But that's not the whole story. China also saw heavy inflows of money in September: US$15 billion through the trade surplus, US$9 billion in inward investment, and about US$3 billion in interest earnings on its foreign bond holdings. Added together, that comes to inflows of US$27 billion. Inflows of US$27 billion, coupled with a valuation loss of US$62 billion would mean a fall in reserves of US$35 billion. But as we've seen, China's reserves actually fell by US$61 billion, which implies that US$26 billion has gone missing in the form of illicit hot money outflows. Admittedly, these are rough estimates. Larger holdings of non-US dollar assets would mean bigger valuation losses and smaller hot money outflows. But there is evidence they are still substantial. According to property agency Centaline, mainland buyers bought half of all the new apartments sold in Hong Kong between July and September. What's more, yesterday Macau announced record casino revenues for last month, beating the previous record set in August. And as the first chart shows, there is a clear negative correlation between inflation-adjusted deposit rates on the mainland and casino takings in Macau, indicating that the gambling enclave remains a favourite conduit for channelling hot money out of China. It seems the rich are so keen to leave the mainland, they are sending their money ahead of them. China isn't the only place seeing heavy capital outflows. As the second chart shows, the value of business and household deposits held by Greek banks has fallen by 20 per cent since the start of the euro-zone crisis. With Athens now planning to hold a referendum on its latest austerity package, those outflows are only going to accelerate. Just as turkeys don't vote for Christmas, it's hard to believe the Greeks will vote for tax increases, job losses and spending cuts. But the only realistic alternative to austerity is for Greece to leave the euro, which means a no vote in the referendum is a vote in favour of default and devaluation. Expect a torrent of money to flood out of the country.