Banks in Hong Kong have been warned that regulators are ready to get tough on trade-based money laundering (TBML) breaches.

New anti-money laundering (AML) regulations were introduced four years ago, since when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has reportedly tripled its AML staffing levels.

TBML approach

At a recent briefing in Hong Kong, banks were encouraged to be practical in their approach to tackling TBML and to base procedures on the guidance paper issued by the Hong Kong Association of Banks (HKBA).

Meanwhile, the HKMA has increased scrutiny on customs, shipping and financiers using port facilities, introducing surprise inspections in their attempts to claw back some of the billions of dollars lost to misinvoicing every year.

Banks’ responsibility

Analysts now say that the HKBA guidelines will soon be used as a tick-box by the regulator when considering enforcement and prosecution, with enforcement teams checking banks’ documents against the guidelines.

Even though there is no rigid set of TBML rules, the onus is on banks to produce specific documents and paper trails to show that they are implementing AML procedures.