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Hong Kong court upholds freeze on businessman's HSBC accounts

[HONG KONG] A Hong Kong court rejected an attempt by a businessman to have his HSBC Holdings Plc accounts unfrozen, pending an investigation by the lender.

Pa Sam Nang and Veronica Fung said the bank had frozen their accounts since March last year, according to a Hong Kong high court filing dated March 7. One of the accounts had a sum of close to US$87 million. HSBC believes Fung to be Pa's wife, the filing showed.

Citing a statement made to the court by HSBC last month, the filing said the bank had discovered that Pa and Fung are associated with a "highly complex" network of more than 30 companies including in Africa and Latin America, which it said are part of a firm identified as Queensway Group. One of the companies is an energy firm that - along with Pa - had recently been implicated in a corruption investigation by Chinese authorities, the filing cited HSBC as saying.

"The alleged wrongdoings and criminal acts committed by Pa involve serious financial crimes including corruption involving foreign governments," the court filing said.

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While there is information suggesting Pa is the head of Queensway, neither his name or any known alias appears on any corporate filings for entities within the company, the filing showed.

The Financial Times first reported on the filing on March 14. Pa didn't respond to requests for comment from the FT, which also said it couldn't reach Fung. The details provided by the court filing weren't enough for Bloomberg to be able to immediately contact Pa, Fung or Queensway Group for comment.

Gareth Hewett, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for HSBC, declined to comment on an "ongoing legal matter."

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