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Three mainland Chinese charged in HK mercantile exchange probe

A security guard stands at the entrance as an office worker walks inside the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange in Hong Kong May 23, 2013. REUTER
A security guard stands at the entrance as an office worker walks inside the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange in Hong Kong May 23, 2013. REUTER

By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Three men were charged on Friday in a Hong Kong court with possessing false documents including a check for $460 million in connection with an investigation into the city's shuttered Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange.

The exchange, which operated a trading platform for gold and silver futures, surrendered its license to the Securities and Futures Commission at the weekend, saying it did not have enough trading revenues to support its operating expenses.

The SFC, the city's financial watchdog, on Tuesday said it had found serious suspected irregularities in the exchange's operations and referred the case to the police for a criminal investigation.

The three mainland Chinese men - Dai Linyi, 55, Li Shanrong, 49, and Lian Chunren, 50 - faced charges of "possessing a false instrument with intent", according to a charge sheet seen by Reuters.

The court gave no details of precisely how the men might be linked to the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange.

No pleas were taken and the three were remanded in jail. The case was adjourned until July 19.

Barry Cheung, chairman and controlling shareholder of the exchange and a close political ally of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, has taken leave of absence from several high-profile public positions as the police investigation continues.

Cheung has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The three men were accused of having in their custody or under their control instruments which were, and which they knew or believed to be false, according to the charge sheet.

It stated that the three intended to use the documents in question, including a letter of guarantee and telegraphic transfer, to induce somebody to accept them as genuine.

The abrupt closure of the mercantile exchange has raised questions over regulatory oversight in Hong Kong.

The case has also drawn unwanted attention to Hong Kong leader Leung nearly a year into his first anniversary in office due to his close ties with Cheung, who acted as his campaign chairman in the leadership election last year.

(Additional reporting by Grace Li; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Michael Urquhart)

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