The caseload of Hong Kong’s lead agency in the battle against money laundering and terrorist financing has soared to a record levels as a global crackdown on dirty money fuels an explosion in reports of suspicious activity from city law firms. As pressure mounts to stamp out dirty money deals, new official figures obtained by the Sunday Morning Post reveal that the number of reports of suspicious financial activity made to the Hong Kong authorities by law firms in the city jumped from 222 in 2014 to 894 in 2015. Overall, the number of reports of suspected dodgy financial dealings – known formally as suspicious transaction reports – made to the government’s Joint Financial Intelligence Unit has also climbed to an all-time high of 43,000. The new data has prompted financial crime experts to warn that in wake of revelations made in the so-called Panama Papers – at the centre of which is the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which does significant business in the SAR – the number of suspect cases is set to escalate. The latest figures from the unit, whose mission according to its official website is to “protect Hong Kong from the illicit activities of money laundering and terrorist financing”, come as Hong Kong starts to feel the chill of the global crackdown on dirty money. The Panama revelations are likely to make solicitors more nervous and therefore reporting to the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit may escalate That crackdown began with investigations into world soccer governing body Fifa, continued with the scandals involving Malaysia’s state-owned fund 1MDB, followed by the latest Panamanian revelations. Top criminal defence advocate Jonathan Midgley said Hong Kong’s anti-money-laundering laws weighed in favour of prosecutors and law firms may have become nervous as the crackdown on dirty money gains ever more traction. “Also, continuing education for solicitors keeps awareness levels high. Accordingly, any funds with even a hint of a suspicion results in a report. The Panama revelations are likely to make solicitors more nervous and therefore reporting to the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit may escalate,” said Midgley. Another factor could be an upcoming court judgment on the appeal of a solicitor convicted of money laundering in August 2014. City’s Joint Financial Intelligence Unit needs investment University of Hong Kong law professor Simon Young Ngai-man suggested that conviction may have shaken the legal profession into reporting more cases. “Lawyers know that reporting is a sure defence to the money laundering charge. No doubt the [conviction] case made clear that lawyers are not untouchable and the Panama Papers will put even more pressure on lawyers,’’ said Young. An investigation is under way into Mossack Fonseca in Panama, including raids on the offices of the law firm in that country. However, despite the world’s biggest data leak revealing that almost a third of their business went through the mainland and Hong Kong , it is unclear if the SAR authorities have been approached by the Panamanian authorities for assistance. Asked if they had been either ben asked for or offered investigative support, a spokesman for the Hong Kong police said: “Police don’t comment’’. A spokesman for the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit said the rise in suspicious transaction reports reflected an enhanced awareness of the law.