Huge increase in investigations by HK authorities into suspected breaches of UN sanctions in last five years

24-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Investigations by Hong Kong authorities into suspected breaches of United Nations sanctions have multiplied by 14 in recent years, from 13 cases in 2014 to 181 last year.

But no charges were laid in relation to contravening UN sanctions in that time, as the government dealt with such cases by deregistering suspect companies or denying suspicious ships from entering Hong Kong.

Undersecretary for Commerce and Economic Development Bernard Chan Pak-li made the revelation at the Legislative Council, in response to a question from accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung.

The issue of UN sanctions has become a matter of concern for lawmakers, particularly after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou last month at the request of prosecutors in New York, over Huawei’s alleged use of an unofficial subsidiary to skirt United States sanctions to conduct business in Iran. Huawei is registered and has offices in Hong Kong.

Without going into details, Chan said it was the Hong Kong government’s job to carry out the UN Security Council’s sanctions on 14 countries and two organisations around the world, but not overseas countries’ sanction on other states.

“Due to their own considerations, individual states might impose unilateral sanction on some jurisdictions. Hong Kong does not have the responsibility or power to carry out these sanctions,” he said.

Chan added that, from 2014 to last year, the city’s police investigated 201 cases of suspected breach of UN sanctions while Hong Kong’s customs investigated 99 cases during the same period.

“Law enforcement agencies’ investigations were also thorough and had a deterrent effect. Many suspicious companies were removed from the companies’ registry, and suspicious vessels were denied entry into Hong Kong waters,” Chan said, adding that these measures have been effective in stopping criminals from using Hong Kong as a base to get around UN sanctions.

“There has yet to be any case of prosecution under the [United Nations Sanctions] Ordinance.”

In a document presented to lawmakers, the government also revealed that in 2014, the police and customs only investigated three and 10 such cases respectively. Those respective figure multiplied to 131 and 51 cases last year.

Leung was concerned about the significant increase. “Was it because our awareness of the problem increased, or because the situation has worsened?” he asked.

Chan responded that it was neither.

“It was because in recent years, there were more concerns within the Security Council about some economies and countries being sanctioned,” he explained, without elaborating further.

Chan refused to disclose how many suspicious companies or ships were deregistered or denied entry. He also declined to reveal how many cases involved Iran or North Korea.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun urged Chan to explain whether Hong Kong would not carry out sanctions of any individual country, or if there were specific countries that the government would not cooperate with.

But Chan only said: “I just wanted to emphasize that, regardless of changes in political situations and economies’ stances and attitudes, Hong Kong will carry out our laws in a professional and serious manner.”


Category: Hong Kong

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