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Hong Kong regulator fines Coutts for breaches in anti-money laundering rules

[HONG KONG] The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said on Tuesday it had ordered the local branch of private bank Coutts & Co Ltd to pay a fine of HK$7 million (S$1.267 million) for breaches in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist rules.

HKMA said its action followed a probe that found between April 2012 and June 2015 Coutts failed to set up and maintain procedures for determining if "its customers or the beneficial owners of its customers were politically exposed persons".

The regulator's probe also found that Coutts's Hong Kong branch had also failed to identify politically exposed persons (PEP) despite relevant information being publicly available, it said in its order.

The private bank also failed to follow up promptly on "PEP alerts received from a commercially available database" to which Coutts subscribed, the order said, adding the firm has taken remedial measures to address the deficiencies identified.

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Royal Bank of Scotland sold the majority of Coutts' international assets to Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) in March 2015 after splitting the bank, best known as banker to Britain's Queen Elizabeth, into a British and a Swiss-based arm.

A spokesperson for UBP could not immediately be reach for comment.