New Hong Kong Financial Crime Taskforce Unites Banks and Authorities

19 June 2017

Simon Deane, partner, was recently interviewed by Payments Compliance on Hong Kong’s new Fraud and Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (FMLIT) that seeks to bolster coordinated efforts in tackling financial crime.  

Simon expressed cautious optimism about the prospects of the taskforce.
 
“[FMLIT] is certainly a step in a positive direction in the fight against financial crime — an intelligence sharing platform between the law enforcement, banks and regulators ought to enhance detection of suspicious activity if all the participants take it seriously,” he said.
 
Simon also noted that although no new legislation affecting financial institutions was directly accompanying FMLIT, certain laws operating in parallel were expected as part of a broader AML push. Banks are already “fairly heavily regulated”, he added, under the HKMA’s specific Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist-Financing Ordinance (AMLO) and additional guidelines. 
 
However, amendments to expand the remit of the AMLO are “imminent”. 
 
Simon continued: “Hong Kong is on the threshold of introducing a new law for companies to maintain a beneficial ownership register that will be made available to law enforcement on a timely basis to assist in any investigations.”
 
Nonetheless, he considered it unlikely that banks’ involvement in AML measures would move beyond intelligence sharing, rejecting visions of a trend toward greater self-regulation or deeper industry involvement in rulemaking.
 
Although no firms which operate purely in payments are part of the initial taskforce, Simon expected those organisations to be included further down the line to ensure a more rounded industry view.
  
Simon observed that the initiative was “identical” to the UK’s Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce under the National Crime Agency, which has boasted “significant success in just two months of a reporting period”. 
 
“We would hope that the Hong Kong iteration of the initiative will be equally successful,” he said.