Hong Kong Threatens Bankers with Jail for Lai Accounts | News from banks
HSBC and Citi bankers who ignore the directive will be “liable, on indictment, to a fine and up to seven years in jail,” according to letters seen by Bloomberg News.
Authorities in Hong Kong have sent letters threatening media mogul Jimmy Lai’s bankers with up to seven years in prison if they deal with any of his accounts in the city.
Security Secretary John Lee, who signed the letters seen by Bloomberg News, had previously announced that he was freezing bank accounts linked to the publisher of the city’s pro-democracy Apple Daily under the sweeping law. Hong Kong on national security. The letters were sent to HSBC Holdings Plc and Citigroup Inc. earlier this month.
Bankers who fail to comply with the directive will be “liable, by indictment, to a fine and up to seven years in jail,” the letters said.
“I am wielding power because Lai has been charged with two offenses of colluding with other countries or outside forces to endanger national security,” Lee said at a press briefing Thursday. “It is my duty to specify in my notice to the parties concerned what the consequences will be if they do not comply with my instructions.”
A Citigroup spokesperson said in an email that it does not comment on individual accounts and is required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the markets in which it operates. An HSBC spokeswoman declined to comment.
The letters could frighten investors in the Asian financial center even more as Beijing tightens its grip on the city. More than 40% of members polled by the local American Chamber of Commerce said they may leave Hong Kong, highlighting concerns in the business community about the security law and strict government policies related to Covid-19.
Lai, a prominent democracy activist who used his Next Digital Ltd. media properties to support the 2019 protests against China, is currently in prison for attending unauthorized rallies in Hong Kong. He also faces more serious charges under the security law, including “collusion” with foreign forces.
A financial adviser to Lai said the amount of money in the accounts was relatively small but represented the Hong Kong end of a network of international banking relationships linked to his private wealth, according to Reuters, which reported the existence of the letters. earlier.