Macau to extend control of a blacklisted bank

(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-22 14:09

Macau will extend its control of a blacklisted bank for six more months, officials said today, one week after the lender's ties with the US financial system were cut off because of its alleged involvement in illegal North Korean deals.

A government-appointed committee has been running Banco Delta Asia since 2005 when the family-owned lender was accused by Washington of helping North Korean launder money and handle counterfeit currency. The committee's six-month tenure was to expire on March 29 and could only be renewed one more time, The Associated Press reported.

Wendy Au, a spokeswoman for Macau's Monetary Authority, said that the leader of the special administration region's leader, Edmund Ho, decided to have the committee oversee the bank for six more months. Au would not explain the decision.

The bank has been a key issue in the six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs. Macau authorities froze US$25 million in North Korean funds, and Pyongyang has demanded the money be returned before the talks continue.

Macau's Monetary Authority said Monday that it would follow the instructions of the North Korean account holders, and the money was expected to be released soon. But Macau officials have declined to say when the funds would be released, and North Korea was growing impatient.

US Treasury Department officials have said that they shared with Macau evidence that shows the bank was knowingly involved in illegal North Korea activities. The bank has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Last week, Washington said it had wrapped up its investigation and that the bank would be cut off from the US financial system.

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