FATF and APG publish long-awaited mutual evaluation report on Hong Kong

Following the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering’s inspection of Hong Kong in October and November 2018, their much anticipated Mutual Evaluation Report (Report) on Hong Kong was published on 4 September 2019. Our previous bulletin on 25 June 2019 gave early insights into the expected findings.

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HKMA rates level of money laundering and terrorist financing risk for SVF sector as medium

Last Friday, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) published its money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF) risk assessment report for the stored value facility (SVF) sector in Hong Kong.

The latest assessment confirms that the SVF sector continues to carry a medium level of ML/TF risk.

While the majority of the sector continues to be characterised by lower ML/TF risks (as indicated by the use of SVF products for low value transport and retail transactions), some pockets of higher ML/TF risks have emerged, arising from SVF products with functions such as overseas cash withdrawal and cross-border remittances.

SVF licensees should consider the HKMA’s report, and (where necessary) update their institutional ML/TF risk assessments and enhance their internal systems and controls.

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FATF Releases Fourth Round Mutual Evaluation Report of China

Authors: Kyle Wombolt, Jeremy Birch, Karen Ip and Mark Chu

On 17 April 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released its fourth round mutual evaluation report (Report) on the effectiveness of China’s measures on anti-money laundering (AML) and combating terrorist financing (CTF). The FATF is an intergovernmental organization which, in addition to developing AML and CTF policies, conducts periodic evaluations of member countries in order to evaluate the effectiveness of their AML and CTF policies.

What changes can institutions anticipate based upon the FATF’s recommendations?

Based on the FATF’s recommendations and recent developments within China, financial institutions and others falling within the AML Law’s ambit are likely to see increased regulatory scrutiny of their compliance with AML and CTF obligations. From a practical perspective, this is likely to result in an increased frequency of regulatory inspections, higher levels of enforcement activity and elevated penalties being sought.

What are the FATF’s findings in the Report?

Some key findings include the following:

  • The effectiveness of China’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) is hampered by the incomplete sharing of information, inconsistent reporting practices for suspicious transaction reports (STR), and a lack of information regarding beneficial ownership (BO).
  • The effectiveness of China’s Financial Institutions’ (FIs) preventative measures is limited by the market’s current level of understanding of ML/TF risks, a lack of implementation of requirements related to BO and ongoing due diligence, and gaps relating to the reporting of STRs.
  • Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions’ (DNFBPs) (such as lawyers, real estate agents, and dealers in precious metals) implementation of preventative measures to address ML and TF is very limited.

What are the FATF’s recommendations in the Report?

The FATF has made several recommendations in the Report, including the following:

First, the FATF recommends that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) increase onsite inspections in the banking sector, ensure adequate supervision of the DNFBP sectors, and extend the Anti-Money Laundering Law (AML Law) to the online lending sector. With regards to supervision of the DNFBP sectors, the PBOC issued a notice in July 2018 (link in Chinese) that would apply the AML Law’s AML and CTF obligations to DNFBPs. In October 2018, China’s top financial regulators – the PBOC, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission and the China Securities Regulatory Commission – also issued joint guidelines (link in Chinese) to expand AML and CTF oversight to internet financial service providers, including those conducting online payment and lending services.

Second, the FATF recommends that China should review the effectiveness of its financial sanctions for AML and consider substantially increasing the size of penalties for violations of the AML Law. There are already indications that China is moving in this direction. In particular, supporters of a motion to amend to the AML Law (link in Chinese) have proposed expanding the scope of the crime of money laundering beyond the current seven categories of predicate crimes. The supporters of the motion have also proposed ensuring that obligations under the AML law reach DNFBPs such as real estate agents, precious metals exchanges and law firms. Finally, they have proposed increasing the monetary penalties available under the AML Law which are currently capped at 5 million yuan (or approximately US$742,170).

Third, the FATF recommends that guidance and training should be provided to FIs and DNFBPs to enhance their understanding of the concept of beneficial ownership. The Report highlighted that institutions sometimes had varying, incomplete understandings of the concept of beneficial ownership. The FATF also states that whilst China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System can serve as a starting point to obtain BO information, it does not indicate whether the registered legal owner or the shareholders is the BO.

AML/CFT compliance in Hong Kong: Recent record fine and reminder of latest guidance

Authors: William Hallatt, Hannah Cassidy, Natalie Curtis, Valerie Tao and Jennifer Fong.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has recently reprimanded and fined Guosen Securities (HK) Brokerage Company (Guosen) HK$15.2 million for failures in complying with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regulatory requirements when handling third party fund deposits.

This is the largest fine imposed under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Ordinance (AMLO) to date.

In this e-bulletin, we provide an overview of the Guosen case and other recent cases, the regulators’ approach to AML/CFT enforcement, as well as a reminder of the recent AML/CFT regulatory guidance.

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MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING RISKS FACING HONG KONG’S FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND PAYMENT SYSTEMS

The Hong Kong government has published a report detailing the money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF) risk assessment of Hong Kong. This follows the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that jurisdictions identify and assess their ML/TF risks and apply mitigating measures, and is a pre-cursor to the FATF’s onsite evaluation of Hong Kong’s ML/TF safeguards, scheduled to take place this autumn.

The report examines the ML/TF threats and vulnerabilities facing Hong Kong as a whole as well as specific sectors. The key aspects of the report are highlighted in our e-bulletin of 4 May 2018. In a follow-up e-bulletin (please click here to access), we provide an overview of the report’s findings in relation to financial institutions and payment systems.

Among others, the Securities and Futures Commission, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Insurance Authority have issued circulars to alert the entities under their purview of the report and provide guidance.

 

William Hallatt
William Hallatt
Head of Financial Services Regulatory, Hong Kong
+852 2101 4036
Vicky Man
Vicky Man
Senior Associate, Hong Kong
+852 2101 4243
Jackie Lam
Jackie Lam
Associate, Hong Kong
+852 2101 4194

REGULATION IN THE AGE OF CRYPTOCURRENCIES

Blockchain technology is ushering in a new epoch of monetary oversight, creating opportunities and challenges for regulators in a world disrupted by the advent of cryptocurrencies

As of 3 May 2018, according to CoinMarketCap, the current market capitalisation of Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies stands at USD409 billion. 193 cryptocurrency exchanges are now operating globally, located in many jurisdictions from South Korea to the Seychelles. Initial coin offerings (ICOs) have also flourished as a fundraising method. ICO funding for the first quarter of 2018 was USD6.3 billion, almost 20 percent higher than the previous year, according to Coindesk.

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NEW PENAL CODE HERALDS SIGNIFICANT EXPANSION TO VIETNAM’S ANTI-CORRUPTION REGIME

A comprehensive New Penal Code came into force in Vietnam on 1 January 2018. This covers a wide range of crimes, including bribery and related offences. The New Penal Code substantially expands the range of offences, including regulating bribery within the private sector and introducing corporate criminal liability for tax evasion and money laundering. The revisions bring Vietnam’s domestic regime more in line with international laws. Continue reading