HONG KONG (AP) - Banco Delta Asia - a Macau bank accused by the U.S. of helping North Korea distribute counterfeit money - relied on global banking group HSBC to check large deposits of U.S. dollars for North Korean customers, lawyers for the Macau lender have said.
The Macau lender's attorneys said in an Oct. 18 letter to U.S. investigators that the bank was a "relatively small, family-owned institution'' that was unable to check big batches of currency for fake bills.
"Since the bank did not have the sophisticated technology to analyze large deposits of U.S. currency, such deposits were sent to HSBC New York for analysis before being finally credited to the depositor's account,'' according to the letter, posted on the U.S. Treasury Department's Web site.
Most of the North Korean transactions were big "wholesale cash deposits,'' which were sent to HSBC, the letter said.
The Macau bank said it used its own older equipment to check smaller, retail deposits.
The equipment "did not function as well as the equipment used at HSBC New York,'' it said.
The letter to the U.S. department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network was written by New York-based attorney Joseph McLaughlin with the law firm of Heller Ehrman, which is representing Banco Delta Asia.
Heller Ehrman's Hong Kong office did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press on Friday.
HSBC spokesman Gareth Hewett in Hong Kong told the AP the bank does not comment on individual companies.
He added, "We take money laundering control very seriously. We comply stringently with anti-money-laundering regulations issued by our various regulators, including in the U.S.''
In 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department accused the Macau bank of willingly helping North Korea launder money and handle counterfeit U.S. currency.
Washington launched an informal financial embargo that enraged the North Koreans, who walked out of discussions about the nation's nuclear program.
The talks have recently restarted.
This week, a U.S. Treasury envoy Daniel Glaser said his agency's suspicions of illegal financial activity were confirmed by two days of talks with Pyongyang officials that ended Wednesday.
But North Korea has not commented publicly on the meetings with Glaser.
It has insisted that it is innocent and has repeatedly demanded that Washington lift financial restrictions.
Posted By Inonu Akgun ALP to AML-CFT
at 2/01/2007 11:41:00 PM