A former senior executive at Hong Kong’s stock exchange operator, and two of his associates, have been arrested for suspected corruption in approving the listing applications of two companies, according to the city’s anti-graft watchdog. “A former joint head of the IPO vetting team of the listing department of the Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Limited (HKEX) and two of his associates were arrested by the ICAC for suspected corruption and misconduct in public office in relation to the vetting of listing applications of the two listed companies,” a spokesman for the Independent Commission Against Corruption said in a statement on Wednesday night. The arrests came after the ICAC, for the second time in its history, joined forces with the Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong’s financial regulator. The joint operation, code-named “cold mountain”, started on Sunday when the two agencies searched the offices of two listing sponsors, investment banks licensed by the SFC. In addition, the ICAC searched a number of other premises, including the offices of the two listed companies and a financial printing company. The SFC said as part of the operation it was reviewing the “manner in which the stock exchange of Hong Kong has administered or dealt with listings”. The SFC is the statutory regulator responsible for overseeing the stock exchange and its parent company HKEX. “While enquiries are continuing, no further comments are available at this stage. The HKEX has rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its operation,” the ICAC spokesman said. HKEX issued a statement saying the ICAC has been conducting an investigation into allegations of corruption concerning one of its former employees. Key figure in Convoy scandal surfaces in newspaper ad to defend himself “The ICAC is not investigating HKEX or any other HKEX employees,” the HKEX announcement said. “HKEX promotes the highest standards of integrity and professionalism across its business and takes this matter very seriously. HKEX is committed to ensuring that this is investigated in full and is providing the ICAC and the Securities and Futures Commission with its full assistance and cooperation in respect of the investigation into the specific allegations.” Hong Kong has been ranked the world’s largest IPO market worldwide six times in the past 10 years. In an attempt to attract more mega IPOs, the HKEX in April last year carried out the largest listing reform of the last 25 year to make it possible for big technology companies with dual shareholding structures, and pre-revenue biotech firms, to list. In the first half of this year, Hong Kong lost its IPO crown, dropping to No. 3 worldwide behind New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq, because of a lack of blockbuster listings. The last time the two agencies worked together was in December 2017 when they searched offices and made four arrests relating to financial advisory Convoy Global Holdings. On May 16, the ICAC charged Convoy’s former director Roy Cho Kwai-chee with conspiracy to defraud the firm by leading it to invest more than HK$89 million in a company he had links to.