China busts a $3 Billion underground bank (NYTimes)

China busts a $3 Billion underground bank (NYTimes)

The money came from all over China — its wealthy southern and eastern coasts as well as the arid northwest — as thousands of people scrambled to circumvent the country’s strict controls on wealth.

In the end, more than 10,000 people had used an underground bank to effectively funnel $3 billion out of the country before the authorities put a stop to it, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, reported on Thursday.

The discovery of the underground bank in Shaoguan, in the southern province of Guangdong, offers a glimpse into how Chinese citizens skirt government limits to get their money out of the country. Their efforts took on global significance two years ago, when a loss of confidence in China’s outlook led many of its people to send their money abroad, a flow that helped drive a remarkable $1 trillion drop in China’s stash of surplus foreign money. The exodus cast a shadow over China’s long-held status as a major global economic growth engine.

China appears to have since stemmed the surge of money abroad, thanks to an improved economic outlook and tough new efforts to keep the money at home. But the underground bank bust announced Thursday showed the lengths that the authorities will pursue to enforce limits on money leaving the country.

The Chinese police have detained seven people believed to be involved in the bank, according to the Thursday reports. The authorities discovered 148 “illegal and fraudulent accounts” from the bank, involving more than 10,000 people, the Xinhua report said. Read more

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