29 finance firm staff nabbed in HK bribery probe

DBS Hong Kong employees were being investigated by the city's anti-corruption agency for allegedly using bribery to obtain personal data of DBS clients.
DBS Hong Kong employees were being investigated by the city's anti-corruption agency for allegedly using bribery to obtain personal data of DBS clients.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG • The anti-graft authorities in Hong Kong have arrested 29 current and former staff of five financial firms for alleged bribery related to the disclosure of confidential customer information on market personal loans.

Operation Mirabilis began last week and led to the arrests of three managers and 18 serving and former direct sales representatives of a bank, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said in a statement yesterday.

A manager and five current and former employees of three other banks, and two employees of a finance company were also detained, the agency said.

All arrested have been released on bail, but the probe is continuing, ICAC said. It did not name the institutions involved, Bloomberg said.

The investigation began after a corruption complaint and led to the arrests, said the ICAC statement posted on its website, Reuters said.

"Inquiries revealed that the bank managers might have accepted bribes from other arrestees as reward for divulging confidential customer information to the latter in Hong Kong for touting personal loan business," the ICAC said.

The companies involved have given their "full assistance" in the probe, it added.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported last Thursday that DBS Hong Kong employees were being investigated by the city's anti-corruption agency for allegedly using bribery to obtain personal data of DBS clients.

The personal data was later passed on to a call centre in China which held telephone promotions for high-interest loans.

Commissions were then shared between the direct sales team and the call centre.

Hong Kong customers had complained about the calls.

DBS Group Holdings said it has never worked with the call centre on telephone promotions, and added that it alerted the authorities after discovering the irregularities, leading to the ICAC probe.

"Together with our regulators and the industry, we intend to intensify our efforts in collaborating and fighting against financial crime," a DBS spokesman told The Straits Times last week.

The ICAC was set up in 1974 to root out corruption in Hong Kong.

It acts as a law-enforcement agency, able to arrest and detain suspects, and prosecutes cases in conjunction with advice from the Department of Justice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2016, with the headline '29 finance firm staff nabbed in HK bribery probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe