Locally reported suspicious transaction reports always investigated – Gov’t

When inquired if they would follow up and investigate the flagged transactions involving four local banks, the Financial Intelligence Office (GIF) and the Monetary Authority of Macau (AMCM) only told Macau News Agency they always follow-up on suspicious transactions reported to them.

As reported by MNA yesterday, a recent data leak involving the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) indicated that some 62 suspicious transactions – amounting to more than US$68.2 million (MOP544.4 million) and reported to US authorities between 2000 and 2017 – involved four banks in Macau.

The transfers involved Bank of China, Banco Nacional Ultramarino, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Macau) Limited, and Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp Macau.

The transactions reported to FinCEn were processed via 3 U.S.-based banks, which filed suspicious activity reports with the US federal authorities, namely, China Investment Corporation, The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and Standard Chartered Plc.

Suspicious activity reports reflect concerns by watchdogs within banks and financial institutions and are not necessarily indicative of any criminal conduct or other wrongdoing.

In a statement issued on September 1, FinCEN stated that it was aware that various media outlets intend to publish a series of articles based on unlawfully disclosed Suspicious Activity Reports, as well as other sensitive government documents, from several years ago.

‘As FinCEN has stated previously, the unauthorized disclosure of SARs is a crime that can impact the national security of the United States, compromise law enforcement investigations, and threaten the safety and security of the institutions and individuals who file such reports. FinCEN has referred this matter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General,’ the financial crime unit added.

‘So far, the AMCM has been maintaining close communication and cooperation with authorities including the GIF, based on the permanent liaison mechanism established. The AMCM will, as always, discharge our duty to safeguard the financial security and stability of the MSAR, as well as to exercise ongoing supervision of financial intuitions in Macau,’ the monetary authority indicated.

Meanwhile, GIF – the competent authority in analyzing suspicious transactions reports in the Macau SAR – stated that for all suspicious transaction reports received, if after analysis, there is any indicia of money laundering, the department will pass them to the Public Prosecutions Office for further follow-up.

Both departments indicated that they are bound by confidentiality concerning their investigations and could not reveal any specific details concerning suspicious transaction reports so as to avoid tipping-off which may hamper analysis and investigation.

In the first half of this year, GIF received 947 suspicious transaction reports, with 494 coming from the gaming sector and 332 coming from financial institutions and insurance companies.

The Macau SAR has actually seen several legislative changes since 2017 concerning the prevention and fight against money laundering, after a visit and suggestions were submitted by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG).

In October of last year, the APG announced that its report on Macau had been reviewed and approved by all members of the group, with the SAR considered to have made good progress in addressing its anti-money laundering ‘deficiencies’.