HONG KONG -- Allegations of fraud and corruption against more than 20 banks and financial institutions are under investigation by a government task force, the chairman of the body said Friday.
Geoffrey Barnes, head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said such probes had become a major part of the work of the investigative body, which has police powers of arrest but operates independently of all other police and government offices.
'Obviously I can't specify particular companies, but one of the main areas taking a lot of our effort are financial institutions where there have been corruption-related frauds committed,' Barnes said at the opening of a new district office in Hong Kong, the world's third-largest financial center.
'About a third of our investigative strength at the moment is concerned with investigations on about 20 different financial institutions and a number of smaller cases as well,' he said.
Barnes said private sector cases accounted for more than 40 percent of all complaints made last year to the commission, which also deals with complaints against police and government officials.
Another 24 percent of complaints were against the police force, a reduction from previous years, while 28 percent involved government departments and 6 percent concerned other public bodies, he said.
The commission's most spectacular recent case ended in September with the successful prosecution of leaders of the so-called 'Shanghai Syndicate,' a horse race-fixing ring involving a number of jockeys and trainers and led by multimillionaire textile manufacturer Yang Yuan-loong.