Hong Kong SFC Fines Brokerage Firm Rifa Futures $1.14 Million for Failures in KYC & Money-Laundering, 310 Clients including Mainland China Investors Trade Through Broker Software Xinguanjia without Separate Accounts in Hong Kong
28th July 2022 | Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Securities & Futures Commission (SFC) has fined Rifa Futures $1.14 million (HKD 9 million) for KYC (Know-Your-Client), Money-Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and regulatory breaches between 2016 to 2018. Hong Kong SFC: “The SFC received complaints against various licensed corporations (LCs) for allowing clients to place orders to their broker supplied systems 3 through a software called Xinguanjia. The complainant alleged that XGJ permitted the LCs’ clients to create sub-accounts under their accounts maintained with the LCs, and the clients had solicited investors in Mainland China to trade through the sub-accounts via XGJ without having to open separate securities accounts with the LCs in Hong Kong.”
“ Hong Kong SFC Fines Brokerage Firm Rifa Futures $1.14 Million for Failures in KYC & Money-Laundering “
Hong Kong SFC Statement:
“The SFC’s investigation found that Rifa, which permitted 310 clients to use client supplied systems (CSSs) for placing orders during the material time, had failed to conduct adequate due diligence on the CSSs. As a result, Rifa was not in a position to properly assess and manage the money laundering and terrorist financing and other risks associated with the use of such CSSs by its clients. In addition, Rifa had failed to implement two-factor authentication (2FA) for clients to login to their internet trading accounts via CSSs since the regulatory requirement took effect in April 2018. The SFC further found that Rifa failed to conduct adequate ongoing monitoring of clients’ fund movements to ensure they were consistent with the clients’ nature of business, risk profile and source of fund. In particular, the SFC identified that the amounts of deposits made into five client accounts were incommensurate with their declared financial profiles.
The SFC is of the view that Rifa’s conduct was in breach of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Ordinance, the Guideline on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing, the Guidelines For Reducing and Mitigating Hacking Risks Associated with Internet Trading and the Code of Conduct.
In deciding the disciplinary sanctions against Rifa, the SFC took into account that:
- Rifa’s failures to diligently monitor its clients’ activities and put in place adequate and effective AML/CFT systems and controls are serious as they could undermine public confidence in, and damage the integrity of, the market;
- a strong deterrent message needs to be sent to the market that such failures are not acceptable; and
- Rifa has previously been disciplined by the SFC for similar AML-related failures
- Rifa, previously known as iSTAR International Futures Co. Limited, is licensed under the Securities and Futures Ordinance to carry on Type 2 (dealing in futures contracts) regulated activity.
- CSSs are trading software developed and/or designated by either third party vendors or the clients that enable them to conduct electronic trading through the internet, mobile phones and other electronic channels.
- The CSSs were connected to Rifa’s broker supplied system (BSS) through application programming interface (a set of functions that allows applications to access data and interact with external software components or operating systems). BSSs are trading facilities developed by exchange participants or vendors that enable the exchange participants to provide electronic trading services to investors through the internet, mobile phones, and other electronic channels.
- Paragraph 1.1 of the Guidelines for Reducing and Mitigating Hacking Risks Associated with Internet Trading issued by the SFC on 27 October 2017 requires licensed corporations to implement 2FA for login to clients’ internet trading accounts. This requirement took effect on 27 April 2018.
- Code of Conduct for Persons Licensed by or Registered with the Securities and Futures Commission.
- Official SFC Press Release dated 12 April 2017.