Macau’s Financial Intelligence Office says there was a 14 percent year-on-year increase in suspicious transaction reports – also known as STRs – in the city during 2014.
“The increment of STRs reflects the continual improvement of AML/CFT awareness among industries, in particular the gaming sector,” said the office, referring to anti-money-laundering and the combatting of the financing of terrorism.
There were 1,812 STRs in 2014, compared to 1,595 such reports in 2013. The lodging of such reports does not in itself indicate criminal activity has occurred, but does indicate that a transaction had been earmarked for closer scrutiny.
The gaming sector generated 1,370 reports – or 75.6 percent – of the 2014 submissions. The number of STRs related to the gaming sector increased by 20.4 percent compared to the 1,138 recorded in 2013.
“The major reason for the increase is due to the adoption of a new policy by several gaming concessionaires on customer due diligence as well as a better control of funds transfers,” said the Financial Intelligence Office.
“The submission of STRs without identity details of subjects continued to decline and this phenomenon is consistent with the tendency of the previous year,” added the report, referring to the gaming sector.
Macau’s financial sector submitted 441 suspicious transaction reports to the office during the year, a 3.5 percent decrease year-on-year.
During 2014, the office submitted to Macau’s Public Prosecutions Office – also known as MP – 163 of all STRs, representing a 10.9 percent increase on the 147 submitted in 2013.
“The rise was caused by increased reporting of supplementary information, although the number of new cases reported to MP decreased moderately,” stated the Financial Intelligence Office.
There were no data in the intelligence office report on the number of STRs submitted to the Public Prosecutions Office that led to prosecutorial action.
The intelligence office said that conversion of gaming chips without a record of gambling activities or with minimal gambling was the most common trigger in 2014 for a suspicious transaction report, accounting for 766 cases.
The intelligence office added that currency exchange and cash conversion had dropped out of the top ten triggers for an STR “due to the more stringent control of cash exchange activities”. Additionally, the number of all Macau STRs involving lack of proof of identity from a transaction customer or lack of other important personal information, fell by nearly 50 percent to 172 cases in 2014.
“This shows that reporting entities have shifted their attention from transactions with unidentifiable suspects to those with useful identification,” said the Financial Intelligence Office.
The other STR triggers in 2014 – ranked in descending order – were: suspicious wire transfers; use of cheques or promissory notes or account transfer to transfer funds; suspected underground banking or alternative remittance services; irregular large cash withdrawals; significant cash deposits with non-verifiable source of funds; suspected politically exposed person-related transactions; possible match with international watch list or other blacklist; counterfeit currency; and “others”.
Macau recorded a total of 571 casino-related crimes in the first five months of 2015, up by 23.3 percent from the prior-year period, the director of the Judiciary Police, Chau Wai Kuong, said on July 15. Reported cases included allegations of abduction and crimes such as extortion and usury. In Macau such offences are typically connected to gambling-related loan sharking.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings