Wed | Jan 17, 2018

China cracks down on underground banking

Published:Wednesday | March 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMMore than 800 people have been arrested in a crackdown on unlicensed banking operations as Beijing tries to stem outflows of money from the country, the police ministry says.
A stack of Chinese currency.

More than 380 underground banks that handled transactions totalling more than 900 billion yuan (US$130 billion) were broken up in the crackdown launched last year, according to the ministry.

Communist leaders allow unlicensed financing activity to support entrepreneurs, but try to stop activity they say threatens the state-run banking system, supports crime or helps people violate foreign exchange controls or other regulations.

Companies and small investors began shifting billions of dollars a month out of China in late 2015, prompted by expectations the currency would decline in value. Beijing responded by stepping up scrutiny of outbound investment and banning some activities by individual investors.

The police ministry statement on Sunday gave no details of what those arrested were accused of doing, but complained of unauthorised money transfers paid for gambling, drug trafficking and smuggling.

China's foreign exchange reserves have declined steadily over the past six months as the central bank spent an estimated US$40-US$60 billion a month to shore up the currency's exchange rate.

The reserves fell to a six-year low in January to US$2.99 trillion, though they still are the world's biggest. That was down US$992 billion from a peak of US$3.99 trillion in June 2014.

- AP