Countries/Jurisdictions of Primary Concern - Hong Kong

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Report

Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, is a major international financial and trading center. As of December 31, 2014, Hong Kong’s stock market was the world’s seventh largest, with $3.9 trillion in market capitalization. Already the world’s eighth largest banking center in terms of external transactions and the fifth largest foreign exchange trading center, Hong Kong has continued its expansion as the primary offshore renminbi (RMB) financing center, accumulating the equivalent of over $158 billion in RMB-denominated deposits at authorized institutions as of September 2015. Hong Kong does not differentiate between offshore and onshore entities for licensing and supervisory purposes.

Hong Kong’s low tax rates and simplified tax regime, coupled with its sophisticated banking system, shell company formation agents, free port status, and the absence of currency and exchange controls present vulnerabilities for money laundering, including trade-based money laundering and underground finance. Casinos are illegal in Hong Kong. Horse races, a local lottery, and soccer betting are the only legal gaming activities, all under the direction of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), a non-profit organization. The HKJC’s compliance team collaborates closely with law enforcement to disrupt illegal gambling outlets. Government of Hong Kong officials indicate the primary sources of laundered funds—derived from local and overseas criminal activity—are fraud and financial crimes, illegal gambling, loan sharking, smuggling, and vice. They attribute a relatively low percentage of laundered funds to drug trafficking organizations.

For additional information focusing on terrorist financing, please refer to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism, which can be found at: http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/

Do FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONs engage in currency transactions related to international narcotics trafficking that include significant amounts of US currency; currency derived from illegal sales in the U.S.; or illegal drug sales that otherwise significantly affect the U.S.: NO

criminalizATION OF money laundering:

“All serious crimes” approach or “list” approach to predicate crimes: All serious crimes

Are legal persons covered: criminally: YES civilly: NO

Know-your-customer (KYC) rules:

Enhanced due diligence procedures for PEPs: Foreign: YES Domestic: YES

KYC covered entities: Banks, securities and insurance entities, money service providers

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS:

Number of STRs received and time frame: 30,028: January 1 – September 30, 2015

Number of CTRs received and time frame: Not applicable

STR covered entities: All persons, irrespective of entity or amount of transaction involved

money laundering criminal Prosecutions/convictions:

Prosecutions: 194: January 1 - September 30, 2015

Convictions: 99: January 1 - September 30, 2015

Records exchange mechanism:

With U.S.: MLAT: NO Other mechanism: YES

With other governments/jurisdictions: YES

Hong Kong is a member of the FATF and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a FATF-style regional body. Its most recent mutual evaluation can be found at:

http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/mutualevaluations/documents/mutualevaluationofhongkongchina.html

ENFORCEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES AND COMMENTS:

Over the last two years, financial regulators, most notably the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, conducted extensive outreach, including at the highest corporate levels, to stress the importance of robust AML controls and highlight potential criminal sanctions implications for failure to fulfill legal obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT, Financial Institutions) Ordinance.

In 2015, there was a U.S. indictment demonstrating how South America’s drug cartels use banks in Hong Kong and mainland China to launder the proceeds of their multibillion-dollar global narcotics trade. The laundering enterprise, led by Colombian nationals and based in Guangzhou, China, laundered more than $5 billion through bank accounts in China, with some money flowing through Hong Kong, on behalf of drug trafficking organizations to fund purchases of counterfeit goods in China, which were then shipped to Colombia and elsewhere for resale.

The United States and Hong Kong SAR are parties to the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Hong Kong on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Affairs, which entered into force in 2000. As a SAR of China, Hong Kong cannot sign or ratify international conventions in its own right. China is responsible for Hong Kong’s international affairs and may arrange for its ratification of any convention to be extended to Hong Kong. The 1988 Drug Convention was extended to Hong Kong in 1997. The UN Convention against Corruption, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime were extended to Hong Kong in 2006.

Hong Kong should establish threshold reporting requirements for currency transactions and put in place structuring provisions to counter efforts to evade reporting. As a major trading hub, Hong Kong should closely examine trade-based money laundering. The government should establish a cross-border currency reporting requirement. Hong Kong should also implement a mechanism whereby the government can return funds to identified victims once it confiscates criminally-derived proceeds.