Exclusive: Bank of Italy conducting supervisory inspection at Bank of China offices

Sun Apr 10, 2016 9:54pm EDT
 
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By Lisa Jucca

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Bank of Italy is carrying out an on-site inspection at the Italian offices of Bank of China Ltd 601988.SS, a Chinese state-owned bank already facing accusations of aiding illicit money flows from Italy to China, a source familiar with the situation said.

Italian prosecutors are seeking to bring 297 people, mostly Chinese, as well as the Milan branch of Bank of China 3988.HK to trial on charges of allegedly smuggling more than 4.5 billion euros ($5.12 billion) into China between 2006 and 2010. A judge in Florence is in the process of deciding whether they should be indicted and face a trial.

Part of the probe, code named 'River of Money', focuses on the relationship between Bank of China and defunct Chinese money transfer operator Money2Money, which used to dominate the market for Chinese remittances from Italy, a prosecutors' document reviewed by Reuters shows.

The source said the supervisory inspection, which  started a few days ago and is continuing, had been triggered by the judicial investigation in Florence. But the Bank of China (BoC) denied there was a link.

It confirmed that the inspection was taking place: "Bank of China is providing full cooperation to the Italian Supervisory Authority," the bank said in written answers to questions from Reuters.

The Chinese bank said the inspection was a routine procedure, which takes place every three to five years and covers all business and management fields of the bank.

"It is not connected to the M2M (Money2Money) issue," the Chinese bank said, declining to divulge further details given the ongoing nature of the inspection.

The Bank of Italy, which oversees banks and financial operators active in the country, declined to comment as it said supervisory activity was secret.   Continued...

 
A man speaking on the phone is seen through the logo of the Bank of China at its head office building in Beijing, China March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj