China banks suspend controversial yuan remittance scheme: WSJ

SHANGHAI Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:35pm EDT

A security guard covers his mouth as he yawns while standing guard outside the headquarters of the Bank of China in the financial district of Beijing March 23, 2010.  REUTERS/David Gray

A security guard covers his mouth as he yawns while standing guard outside the headquarters of the Bank of China in the financial district of Beijing March 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Major Chinese banks have temporarily suspended a yuan remittance service after a state broadcaster accused the country's fourth biggest lender Bank of China (BOC) of allowing wealthy Chinese to launder money offshore through the scheme, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The paper, citing unidentified sources, said Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) and China CITIC Bank Corp had halted the service which had been approved by the central bank about two years ago.

A Bank of China source with direct knowledge of the matter said the bank had temporarily halted the service.

"The bank understands that there are management and risk control issues with the program, especially in relation to the junior employees involved," said the source, who declined to be named.

Public relations officials at Bank of China and ICBC could not be reached for comment while a CITIC Bank official refused to comment on the Wall Street Journal's report.

Last week China Central Television (CCTV) aired what it called an undercover investigation program that uncovered a little known service called "You Hui Tong", which allows wealthy Chinese individuals to take part in investment emigration programs in other countries to move cash offshore in amounts that exceed the annual cap of $50,000.

The program quoted an unnamed BOC source who said the scheme was kept a secret because BOC knew it was illegal, but BOC denied the allegations.

The news prompted the country's central bank to look into the allegations, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

(Reporting by Engen Tham and Bi Xiaowen; Editing by Kazunori Takada and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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