China expands AML/CTF obligations 

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China expands AML/CTF obligations, 中国扩大企业反洗钱及反恐怖融资义务

The Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing of Financial Institutions, recently promulgated by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), came into effect on 1 August 2021. Among other things, the measures expand the scope of applicable entities, provide specific details of internal control and risk management requirements, and increase the PBOC’s supervision and administration powers. The new measures are a significant development, demonstrating China’s efforts to improve and enhance its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) regime.

Key takeaways

(a) Organisations subject to the AML/CTF requirements under the new measures have been widened to include loan companies, asset management subsidiaries of commercial banks, non-banking payment institutions, insurance agents and insurance brokers.

(b) Financial institutions subject to existing AML regulatory obligations will need to review the connection between the measures and their existing obligations to ensure they are fully compliant with the PBOC requirements.

(c) The measures adopt a risk-based approach and require that an organisation’s internal control mechanism corresponds to its AML/CTF risks and business scale, and should include a risk assessment mechanism. Applicable institutions will need to review their existing controls to ensure compliance, noting that the PBOC has been given greater powers for enhanced AML/CTF supervision.

(d) Organisations are reminded to undertake customer due diligence, including the need to keep customer identification data and transaction records, and report large-value and suspicious transactions.

After China’s fourth round mutual evaluation, conducted by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) from 2018 to 2019, multiple departments took steps to strengthen the AML/CTF regime as recommended by the FATF. These efforts include an amendment to the money laundering offence in Amendment XI to the Criminal Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the PBOC’s public consultation in December 2020, greater co-operation between the PBOC and the procuratorates, and a 368.2% increase in the number of prosecutions for money laundering offences in 2020 compared to 2019.

Based on the structure set up by the Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Anti-Money Laundering of Financial Institutions (Trial) (2014 measures), the PBOC began a public consultation on 30 December 2020 that resulted in the approval of the measures on 25 April 2021.

2014 Measures

2021 Measures

Policy banks, commercial banks, rural co-operative banks, rural credit co-operatives, and village banks. Developmental financial institutions, policy banks, commercial banks, rural co-operative banks, rural credit co-operatives, and village banks.
Securities companies, futures companies, and fund management companies. Securities companies, futures companies, and securities investment fund management companies.
Insurance companies, and insurance asset management companies. Insurance companies, and insurance asset management companies.
Financial asset management companies, trust companies, enterprise group finance companies, financial leasing companies, auto finance companies, and currency brokers. Trust companies, financial asset management companies, enterprise group finance companies, financial leasing companies, auto finance companies, consumer finance companies,currency brokers, loan companies,and wealth management subsidiaries of banks.
Other financial institutions to perform AML/CTF obligations as determined by the PBOC. Other financial institutions to perform AML/CTF obligations as determined and announced by the PBOC.
Payment institutions, bank card institutions, fund clearing centres, and institutions engaging in foreign exchange and fund sales businesses are governed by the measures. Non-banking payment institutions, bank card clearing institutions, fund clearing centres, network microfinance companies, and institutions engaging in foreign exchange, fund sales, professional insurance agency, and insurance brokerage businesses are governed by the measures.

Increased scope

The new measures have widened the scope of applicable institutions by adding developmental financial institutions, consumer finance companies, loan companies, non-banking payment institutions and many other types of financial service companies. The following table briefly compares the entities in the 2014 measures with those added to the new measures.

Many of the newly added entities have already been performing AML/CTF obligations as required by other regulations. For instance, developmental financial institutions and consumer finance companies are subject to the Administrative Measures on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing of Banking Financial Institutions, while online microfinance companies are subject to the targets of the Administrative Measures on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing of Internet Financial Institutions (Trial).

Meanwhile, non-bank payment institutions have been the focus of AML/CTF scrutiny for many years. In July 2021 alone, the PBOC brought numerous administrative cases against non-bank payment institutions for AML non-compliance, with fines of millions of yuan in each case. It is worth mentioning that when the PBOC was soliciting comments on the draft measures, there was a proposal for private equity fund managers to be included in the measures.

The PBOC ultimately rejected this suggestion and noted: “considering that the legal definition of private equity fund managers still needs to be further clarified, and from a practical point of view, China’s private equity fund managers are of complex types, large numbers and have generally few staff, and it is difficult to unify AML/CTF requirements for them; the PBOC will further study the potential money laundering risks of private equity fund with relevant authorities.”

Therefore, at present, the AML obligations that private equity fund managers need to perform are limited to the requirements of the Administrative Measures on the Fundraising Behaviours of Private Equity Investment and other relevant regulations.

Internal control, risk management

The measures include a new chapter, Internal Control and Risk Management of AML/CTF of Financial Institutions, which specifies the requirements on duties, staff and information submission to build a safer and sounder risk control system. Some of the key requirements are highlighted below.

(1) Duties

    • Establish a risk self-assessment mechanism at the head office level;
    • Establish a centralised AML/CTF mechanism at the head office level so that all affiliates within the group may implement the same AML/CTF mechanism;
    • Establish an appropriate risk management mechanism according to the AML/CTF risks identified, taking enhanced measures for identified high-risk situations, and adopting simplified measures for identified low-risk situations;
    • Establish a compatible IT system for AML/CTF matters and upgrade the system promptly;
    • Establish an audit mechanism (either by an internal audit team or an independent external auditor) for AML/CTF; and
    • Perform customer due diligence, keep customer identification data and transaction records, report large-value and suspicious transactions, and perform other obligations.

(2) Staff requirements

    • Establish a new internal department or designate an existing internal department to be responsible for AML/CTF matters;
    • Clarify the respective responsibilities of the board of directors, board of supervisors, senior management and relevant departments on AML/CTF matters, and establish corresponding mechanisms of performance evaluation, rewards and punishment;
    • Appoint or designate a senior manager to take the lead in AML/CTF management; and
    • Appoint sufficient AML/CTF personnel based on an organisation’s scale of operations, risk status and business development trends.

(3) Information submission, reporting

    • Submit AML/CTF information in accordance with the PBOC’s requirements;
    • Report to the PBOC in a timely manner the formulation or revision of the main AML/CTF internal control system, including any adjustment of the main personnel responsible for AML/CTF and material risk issues; and
    • Annual report to the PBOC by a financial institution’s domestic headquarters confirming the condition that their overseas branches or subsidiaries (if any) will receive the AML/CTF supervision from the host countries.

Supervision, admin measures

As a final note, the new measures have upgraded the PBOC’s supervision powers by allowing it to use a variety of measures to carry out AML/CTF supervision and administration. Some of these measures include:

(1) Evaluating the establishment and implementation of AML/CTF system based on information submitted;

(2) Conducting on-site assessments of AML/CTF risks;

(3) Meeting with directors, supervisors, senior managers or department heads;

(4) Conducting supervisory visits;

(5) Introduction of the AML supervision reminder letter requiring a written response within 20 working days (compared with the PBOC’s previous right to make telephone or written inquiries requiring a response within five working days); and

(6) Conducting on-site inspection, including the power to check/copy documents and materials, seal documents and materials, and inspect information relating to a financial institution’s digital business management and AML/CTF risk management system.


Business Law Digest is compiled with the assistance of Baker McKenzie. Readers should not act on this information without seeking professional legal advice. You can contact Baker McKenzie by e-mailing Howard Wu (Shanghai) at howard.wu@bakermckenzie.com