HKMA Should probe Banks over Money Laundering for subversion

| Edward Chow 16 Aug 2019

Good news indeed that the courts have granted the Airport Authority an injunction restraining people from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport.

Let's hope protesters/rioters, whatever they are called, understand that contempt of court with a violation of the injunction is a different and potentially very severe criminal offense.

While there seems to be no end in sight for the ongoing and increasingly disruptive and wildcat-type multilocation riots, and this coming Sunday will be another challenging D-Day, Hong Kong must get to the roots of the problem skillfully, from the cause and the source to the consequences we are all facing.

One cause that is increasingly being suggested in the public domain is that many of the organizers and agitators of the (initially) peaceful marches and the rioters, be they on the front line, midfield, fullback or logistical backup, are paid agents on different pay scales that involve significant amounts of cash.

Such suggestions also point to the funding coming from either local or foreign sources, with the latter then distributed locally on a per-event or other basis. The symptoms resemble organized crime.

As the number one public enemy of our financial system is money laundering, terrorism and funding of subversive activities, it is strongly suggested that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which is vested with such responsibilities as surveillance, regulation and enforcement, take urgent initiative to investigate whether such suggestions are founded or otherwise.

As our territory-wide interests and stability are at stake, the HKMA should send its investigators/auditors to banks to carry out such tasks.

It should also keep the public informed of its initiatives in this regard.

As the HKMA regulates banks, which are expected to carry out their business under volumes of regulations over such issues as know your clients, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism, etc, bank staff at all levels should take extra steps to make sure that our banking system is not being used to fund and distribute cash for illegal activities, with unusually large sums of cash withdrawals.

On the other hand, there has also been suggestions that some agents, upon receiving their payoff, do pass on some of the extra cash earned to their parents for pocket money and, in consequence, out-of-the-norm deposits could be made to bank accounts in the past two months.

Bank staff should be reminded of whistle-blowing channels that already exist at banks and the HKMA.

Audits and investigations are not rocket science and involve professional work. In other words, audit trails of questionable cash transactions would already exist and could be discovered to form concrete evidence in court.

As some of the related suspicions of criminal activities would also fall within the ambit of the police and the ICAC, I would not be surprised if they are on the same trails as well.

And so the old saying "What has been done cannot be undone" remains true and relevant.

It is up those with power and intelligence to get us out of the hole and, in so doing, uphold the rule of law!

Edward Chow is a current affairs commentator

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