The top adviser to Hong Kong’s leader has confirmed his account at a US bank was closed earlier this year, with the revelation coming after Washington’s push to sanction Chinese and local officials over the city’s national security law.
Bernard Chan, convenor of the Executive Council, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s de facto cabinet, told the Post on Tuesday he believed it was because he was deemed to be a “politically exposed person”.
He had opened the account at the unnamed bank, which also has branches in Hong Kong, more than a year ago. But it was closed by the institution, and he got his money back in April.
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“I’m sure they closed it because they found out I’m a PEP, politically exposed person,” Chan said. “I have other bank accounts in the United States which still function normally.”
Chan’s confirmation came after he told the Financial Times senior members of the city’s government were finding it increasingly difficult to bank with foreign institutions, as tensions mount between China and the US over the city’s future.
Politically exposed people are customers that banks consider vulnerable to corruption, or who pose a higher risk of money laundering.
Under the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s guidelines on the prevention of money laundering, politically exposed persons are “individuals being, or who have been, entrusted with prominent public functions, such as heads of state or of government, senior politicians, senior government, judicial or military officials, senior executives of public organisations and senior political party officials”.
Regulators are concerned that, especially in countries where corruption is widespread, such people may abuse their public powers for their own illicit enrichment through the receipt of bribes, and financial institutions must have appropriate systems and controls in place to determine whether a customer is a PEP.
In retaliation for Beijing’s decision to impose a national security legislation on Hong Kong, US President Donald Trump signed a law and issued an executive order on July 15 to sanction individuals and banks deemed to have aided the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. He also put forth an executive order ending the city’s preferential trading and other privileges.
Foreign individuals or entities determined by the US secretary of state to fall into this category will be blocked from investing, transferring, exporting, withdrawing or dealing with any property or interests in property in the US.
A Post check on the declaration of interests by Lam, her 16 ministers and 16 non-official members of the Executive Council, found that only Chan and Exco member Laura Cha Shih May-lung had disclosed American assets.
Chan has a self-use property in San Francisco in California while Cha has a flat through an offshore company for rental purposes. The exact location of Cha’s property was not indicated.
Chan, who is also a member of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, said at the time that he was not worried.
“I don’t think they would target ranks like mine … as Beijing would retaliate equally, and I am sure they would suffer more,” Chan said. “The national security law is a done deal. There is no way that I would change my stance because of such threats.”
Chan said he had no plans to change or remove his assets there, which included a small banking account.
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This article Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s top adviser has account at US bank closed first appeared on South China Morning Post