HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s banking regulator said the financial hub was committed to meeting international standards on anti-money laundering, after media reports that some leading banks had moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades despite red flags about the money’s origin.
The BuzzFeed and other media articles were based on leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).
A Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) spokeswoman said it was “aware of relevant news reports but (does) not discuss individual cases”.
“The HKMA requires banks to implement effective anti money laundering (AML) and counter financing of terrorist (CFT) systems including detecting and reporting suspicious transactions to law enforcement agencies for investigation.”
The HKMA’s “risk-based AML/CFT supervision is assessed by the international standard setter, Financial Action Task Force, as effective and in line with international standards,” the spokeswoman added.
Major Hong Kong institutions HSBC <HSBA.L> <0005.HK> and Standard Chartered <STAN.L> <2888.HK> were among the five banks that appeared most often in the documents, the ICIJ reported.
The two banks’ London-listed shares fell on Monday to their lowest level since at least 1998.
(Reporting by Alun John and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Gareth Jones)