Financial crime under graftbusters’ scrutiny – The Standard | Phoebe Ng

Hong Kong’s graftbusters will host an international seminar on financial crimes for the first time this week, as the SAR saw 63 such graft cases involving 221 individuals or companies and HK$5.4 billion last year.

Hundreds of international anti-graft experts are expected at the two-day seminar which begins tomorrow at the headquarters of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in North Point.

ICAC assistant director of operations Eric Tong Wing-tak admitted the seminar comes amid increasing complexity and internationalization of financial transactions, making investigations more challenging. “There is a lot of corruption concealed within financial transactions,” Tong said in a media briefing.

It is the first time the agency’s biennial symposium will focus on financial investigation, with heavyweight speakers from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, and China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Ministry of Supervision.

The ICAC established the proceeds of crime section and forensic accounting group in 2010 and 2011, respectively, to cope with the rise of financial crime.

“If we do not know enough, it would become a roadblock to our investigations,” Tong said.

Themed “Cutting the financial vein of the corrupt,” the seminar will focus on financial investigation and asset recovery.

“Bribery decades ago would normally be cash transaction, and the other party would simply deposit the advantage into their bank accounts,” Tong said.

“Criminals are getting highly skilled nowadays. They will cover up transactions with not just one but 10 or 20 international accounts via different investment tools.”

The ICAC has paired up with overseas investigators through “reciprocal juridical assistance” arrangements.

“Investigations have to work around different judicial systems and governmental bodies, and that involves piles of paperwork,” Tong said.

“We hope the seminar will be a catalyst for further international cooperation.”

After the seminar, a training attachment will be held on Thursday and Friday for experience sharing. The seminar also features two workshops on beneficial ownership and how to hold corporates liable to financial crime. Around 250 officers, professionals and academics in the field from 41 regions will be attending.

Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said: “We have invited experienced speakers and eminent experts. This is an unparalleled opportunity for all of us to update ourselves learn from each other, and foster effective partnerships.”

The forensic accounting group assisted in 63 graft cases last year. This compared with 91 cases involving 249 individuals or companies and HK$6.5 billion in 2015.

The proceeds of crime section confiscated more than HK$30 million last year, compared with just below HK$19 million in 2015. The agency is also awaiting court order for five cases to proceed with asset recovery process involving over HK$800 million, almost four times that in 2015.