How Russian money launderers boosted the clean-up drive in Hong Kong

A shocking report in March by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that up to US$80 billion may have been funnelled out of Russia from 2010 to 2014, via amenable banks in Latvia and Moldova. Involved were all corners of the Russian elite, from oligarchs to shadowy figures linked to the FSB, Russia’s main security agency.

A silence has since fallen over this scandal which has enveloped some of Hong Kong’s largest financial institutions. But this should not minimise what these allegations mean for the city’s efforts in fighting the laundering of financial crime proceeds.

Banks in Hong Kong have invested increasingly vast sums in anti-money laundering resources. HSBC spent US$800 million on compliance resources in the first quarter of 2017, a 12 per cent increase over the previous year, despite a nearly 20 per cent fall in first-quarter profits. With banks facing further regulatory pressures, this trend

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