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China Cracks $64 Billion Underground Bank

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China said it cracked the nation’s biggest “underground bank,” which handled 410 billion yuan ($64 billion) of illegal foreign-exchange transactions, as the authorities try to combat corruption and rein in capital outflows that have hit records this year.

More than 370 people have been arrested or face lawsuits or other punishment in the case centered in eastern Zhejiang province, the official People’s Daily reported on Friday, citing police officials. The case brought the total for underground banking and money-laundering activities to 800 billion yuan since April, the newspaper said.

The probe began in September last year and the police took almost a year to sort through more than 1.3 million suspicious transactions, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported separately. The authorities froze more than 3,000 bank accounts, Xinhua said.

Global Flows

The case highlights the nation’s struggle to control capital outflows that have helped to send real-estate prices soaring from Vancouver to Sydney — even when Chinese citizens are officially limited to converting $50,000 of yuan per year. Some people may be moving the proceeds of corruption, while others may be concerned about the outlook for the economy and the potential for the yuan to weaken.

“The government wants to stem outflows and stabilize the yuan’s exchange rate, but the outflows cannot be stopped unless people change their expectation on yuan depreciation,” said Xi Junyang, a finance professor at Shanghai University of Finance & Economics. Besides illegal banking operations, “a lot of money is leaving the country by legal means,” Xi said.

China’s capital outflows may have climbed to a record $194 billion in September before cooling to $62 billion in October, according to a Bloomberg gauge which also takes into account decisions by exporters and direct investment recipients to hold funds in dollars.

‘Smurfing’

The tactics used by Chinese citizens to defeat the controls include so-called smurfing, where large sums are moved by breaking them down into a series of smaller transfers using the bank accounts and foreign-exchange quotas of a range of individuals.

In the Zhejiang case, a suspect identified as Zhao Mouyi used a different method, setting up more than 10 companies in Hong Kong from 2013 and transferring more than 100 billion yuan through so-called non-resident accounts, which are used by offshore companies in China when they are transferring money abroad, according to the newspaper’s report.

Taking advantage of a “loophole” relating to non-resident accounts — which has since been filled by banks — Zhao circumvented the capital controls by directly transferring yuan overseas and then exchanged the money into foreign currencies at banks including HSBC Holdings Plc in Hong Kong, the People’s Daily said. Zhao then allegedly transferred it to his clients’ accounts, the report said, citing the local police.

Suspicious Transactions

HSBC declined to comment on the report. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also declined to comment on the specifics of the case, while saying that banks in the city have “stepped up their internal controls to report suspicious transactions.”

  • Methods of bypassing China’s currency controls include:
  • making transfers using Hong Kong money changers
  • carrying checks from underground banks across the border to Hong Kong
  • smuggling cash through customs
  • making payments abroad using credit or debit cards and then returning merchandise for cash
  • getting an overseas mortgage based on savings held within China

The underground banking crackdown is “an attempt to reduce the capital outflow pressure,” said Hou Wei, a banking analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong. The government is “determined and very serious” about defending its currency reserves and the exchange rate, the analyst said.

Taiwan, Australia

In another case highlighted by the People’s Daily on Friday, an investigation of an underground bank in Fujian this year uncovered a network spanning Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia and Saudi Arabia — and a senior executive at a state-owned enterprise who allegedly tried to move 18 million yuan abroad, the newspaper said.

The authorities have made a series of moves to control legal and illegal capital flows, including capping withdrawals at overseas automated teller machines.

The People’s Bank of China has given verbal guidance to onshore lenders to stop offering cross-border financing to offshore banks, people familiar with the matter said this week. The monetary authority has also told overseas banks to halt onshore bond repurchases, two of the people said.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Afrexim and Asoko Partner to Help List African Companies

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Asoko Insight, Africa’s leading provider of corporate data and engagement services, is pleased to announce a partnership with Africa Export-Import Bank that will help African companies list on its due diligence platform, the MANSA.

Launched by Afrexim in 2018 to counter the cuts in trade finance and investment financial flows to Africa, MANSA aims to be a single source of the primary data required for Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Know Your Customer (KYC) checks on African entities. The transparency MANSA provides will address key trade-related challenges facing the continent, including the lack of market information, the high cost of doing business in Africa and the challenges around discovering African counterparties.

The corporate information gathered through this KYC platform provides an additional layer of confidence for international financiers and African companies seeking business partners,  unlocking the flow of capital and creating a more transparent operational landscape for trade and investment.

Onboarded as an official data partner for the project, Asoko will host access to the MANSA platform on its Digital Engagement platform through which African companies can register and submit their CDD/KYC information to be listed on the MANSA platform.

Rob Withagen, co-founder and CEO of Asoko Insight, said, “Easing access to African companies for trade and investment opportunities is at the core of Asoko’s work. MANSA is a key tool for facilitating data sharing about members of Africa’s vibrant private sector and we’re pleased to offer a route to it via our Digital Engagement platform.

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HOPE Consortium and Astral Aviation Sign MOU to Enhance Vaccine Distribution Solutions in Africa

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As part of its continued commitment to vaccine distribution in Africa, the HOPE Consortium has partnered with Kenya-based cargo airline, Astral Aviation, to offer vaccine distribution solutions to Africa. This highlights the HOPE Consortium’s efforts in reinforcing partnerships that focus on fighting the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as fulfilling the organisation’s mission as a global logistics facilitator, by aiding in vaccine delivery.

As part of the partnership agreement, both entities will focus on intra-African cooperation to enhance vaccine distribution within the African continent. The HOPE Consortium will utilise Astral Aviation’s comprehensive network, technologies, and market expertise, to support its global objective of facilitating vaccine availability with a specific emphasis on the African continent. The alliance will ensure timely delivery of vaccines and critical supplies to all 54 African nations.

Astral Aviation operates a diverse fleet of 14 freighter aircraft and provides innovative, flexible, and cost-effective UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) integrated drone-based solutions, as well as warehousing solutions to both in-store and remote locations.

This synergetic collaboration with the HOPE Consortium will see Astral Aviation provide capacity for vaccine deliveries on its scheduled and charter freighter network, in addition to world-class drone solutions and systems to Africa, with the purpose of facilitating immunisation programmes.

Commenting on the partnership, Mr. Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation said: “We are truly honoured to partner with the HOPE Consortium and participate in the critical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, based on our track record in performing humanitarian initiatives and vaccine flights within Africa. Astral will add further technological and warehousing solutions for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines from the hub in Abu Dhabi, to all the 54 countries in Africa directly or via its Nairobi Hub, which occupies 9000 m2 of cold-storage facilities.”

It is worth mentioning that Astral has also been selected by UNICEF to perform vaccine flights for COVAX and for the African Union via the African Medical Supplies Platform.

Through this partnership, the HOPE Consortium furthers its end-to-end supply chains required to distribute vaccines from their base in Abu Dhabi to all African countries. The HOPE Consortium has geared its operations to transport millions of critical COVID-19 vaccines to any country in need and thus far has handled over 100 million vaccine doses across 40 countries.

Robert Sutton, Head of Logistics Cluster, Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “Africa has always been a high priority market for the HOPE Consortium, and to that end, we are pleased to join hands with Astral Aviation. With a track record of operating over 20 years within Africa, their expertise provides a new dimension towards achieving our overarching objectives. This partnership reinforces the HOPE Consortium’s aim of creating a sustainable ecosystem, based on our collective global networks, logistics and supply chain capabilities, in order to facilitate vaccine distribution across the world. Our partnership with Astral Aviation is another benchmark towards our commitment to serve every country, region, and locale. We are confident that this partnership will help enhance HOPE Consortium’s efforts in Africa and ensure that no one is left behind in the quest against the pandemic.”

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Konga Partners NIDCOM, Places World-Class Assets at Reach of Nigerians in Diaspora

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Konga

Konga, Nigeria’s leading composite e-commerce giant, has signed a partnership with the Federal Government through the Diaspora Commission to further strengthen the relationship between Nigerians abroad, their relatives and the nation.

To this effect, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Konga and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Present at the signing ceremony was the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, NIDCOM, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, Co-CEO, Konga Group, Nick Imudia; Vice President, KongaPay, Isa Aliyushata as well as other senior officials of NIDCOM.

The terms of the MoU will see NIDCOM partner with Konga is offering Nigerians based in overseas locations a credible platform devoid of the potential concerns of fraud and other unscrupulous practices. Consequently, through this synergy, Konga will place its huge resources, extensive reach, world-class assets and credible database at the disposal of millions of Nigerians in the Diaspora in search of a reliable and robust platform to work within the country.

In addition, the partnership will see Konga set up an exclusive Diaspora Marketplace to aid Nigerians abroad gain access to quality Nigerian products and services, while also helping them sell their own items locally. Furthermore, NIDCOM will also leverage Konga TV, a cutting-edge Cloud TV soon to be launched by the e-commerce giant, to reach millions of Nigerians across the globe.

The development is one which the FG believes will ease capital flight, while also boosting the scope of useful foreign exchange earnings through Diaspora returns.

‘‘We are delighted to have signed this partnership with Konga which remains unarguably a world recognized and credible e-commerce leader in Nigeria,’’ disclosed Hon Mrs. Abike Erewa, NIDCOM Executive Chairman. ‘‘Through this initiative, millions of Nigerians will have access to a reliable platform here in Nigeria to guide their investment decisions, while also offering them a chance to empower their loved ones through the numerous opportunities that abound on KongaGroup. We are also confident that this partnership will encourage many Nigerians resident abroad to gain useful knowledge and consider major social investments in Nigeria, a development that will further rub off positively on the economy.”

Also speaking at the event, Ekeh, Chairman of Konga commended the NIDCOM Chairman and her team for their efforts and professionalism in making the partnership a reality. Ekeh, who pioneered e-commerce in Africa through the now-defunct BuyRight Africa Dotcom over 13 years ago, lauded the power of e-commerce in bridging gaps and growing the wealth of nations in the 21stCentury, a role he stated that Konga is eminently positioned to play in view of its huge resources and growth trajectory in Nigeria and beyond. He added that the partnership is expected to cause a change that would be a blessing to Nigerians in the 21st century.

On his part, Imudia, Co-CEO, Konga Group also stressed the many opportunities that abound for Nigerians in the Diaspora through the partnership with NIDCOM.

‘‘The opportunities are huge.

‘‘Many Nigerians abroad can now find credible merchants for their purchases in Nigeria or even set up their own stores on Konga. Also, they can access reliable information before committing funds or while making investment decisions. With Konga, Nigerians abroad can afford to extend support to relatives and their respective communities without stories.

‘‘Put simply, Nigerians abroad can order foodstuffs, medicines, and other products on Konga platforms and get them delivered to their families and friends without stories, no matter the location in Nigeria. All they need do is open a wallet on KongaPay, a Central Bank of Nigeria fully licensed mobile money platform. They can also use the Konga platform to pay school fees, monthly feeding allowances and pay contractors working for them in Nigeria, etc. and receive alerts that their instructions have been carried out with 100% accuracy.’’

The partnership with NIDCOM comes just as Konga recently signed off on another partnership with the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development to empower millions of Nigerians youths through a job and wealth creation scheme known as Konga Jobs (KJ). The initiative targets the employed, under-employed and unemployed Nigerians. Konga also recently entered a strategic partnership with the Edo State Government to launch the Edo Marketplace(EMP) on Konga as a major platform to take SMEs in the state to the global marketplace and to better serve the unreached and under-reached.

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