by Chriss W. Street
China is cracking down after the CCTV state-owned broadcaster secretly recorded a state-owned bank executive bragging that the bank illegally provides in-house money laundering services for wealthy Chinese nationals to violate currency controls and buy real estate in “world cities” as their off-shore safety deposit box.
The Chinese have been driving up high-end real estate prices with all cash purchases in California’s Orange County, Vancouver, New York’s East Side and Sydney’s Gold Coast. But with CCTV exposing tens of thousands of wealthy Chinese for criminal money laundering, the
Communist Party leadership may demand real estate be sold and the laundered money returned home.
The crackdown in China is underway after the dominant state-owned CCTV, China Central Television, aired undercover footage showing a Bank of China executive explain how for a fee paid to the bank would illegally wire any amount over the legal limit of $50,000 to an off-shore account.
The CCTV 20 minute report includes a “sting” section where a BOC banker states, “We don’t care where your money is from or how you earn it, we can help you get it out of the country.” The banker added, “We don’t care how black your money is or how dirty it is, we will find ways to launder it and shift it overseas for you.”
According to the South China Morning Post, the BOC was “blatantly offering money laundering services” and fabricating information through its in-house money transfer platform called Youhuitong. BOC teamed up with immigration agencies to disguise the origin of clients’ money and helped them “send funds overseas for “investment immigration.”
The Chinese authorities have been trumpeting their infrastructure investments in Africa, Middle East port investments and leadership and their recent leadership in founding of a BRICS Development Bank. But talk to any real estate broker around the developed world and she will tell you that high end properties will never stop going up in price because rich Chinese will continue to bid up sales prices with all-cash offers.
The CCTV’s attack on the Bank of China came as a shock to China analysts after the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a directive on June 19th banning media organizations from making “critical reports” against major government institutions without prior approval.
State-owned media had been embarrassing the government by heavily criticizing Chinese ministries and law enforcement for failing to solve the disappearance a Malaysian Flight to Beijing in March with 153 Chinese citizens.
BOC and CCTV are both so-called “central enterprises” directly under the supervision of the State Council. For CCTV to release such detailed and serious accusations against state-owned bank must mean that CCTV obtained prior approval to air the segment.
The latest accusations of money laundering are extremely serious because they are institutional in nature, rather than about one or two corrupt officials.
Business Spectator reported that the inquiry also focuses on the assistance of Australian banks to illegally launder Chinese funds to meet the “Significant Investor Visa Program” that “offers an accelerated pathway for wealthy investors to gain permanent Australia residency by investing $5 million in Australian bonds, funds or a small business.
Chinese nationals now account for 9 out of 10 applicants since the program was introduced five years ago.
Chinese prosecutors are undoubtedly combing through Bank of China wiring instruction files to nab huge numbers of money laundering violators. Don’t be surprised if those all-cash Chinese real estate buyers start dumping their off-shore properties.