Macau's leader Edmund Ho said yesterday that US allegations that a Macau-based bank has been laundering money for North Korea were "serious" and lacked evidence.
Financial authorities in Macau were investigating allegations by the US Treasury Department that Macau's Banco Delta Asia SARL had aided front companies for the North Korean government in distributing counterfeit money and smuggling.
The US Treasury has put the bank on its blacklist of suspected money launderers and proposed that the bank be cut off from the US financial system.
In response, Ho told reporters: "These serious allegations from the US Treasury must ultimately be based on fact."
"We cannot jump to such a hasty conclusion before there is firm evidence," he said.
The allegations have led a large number of depositors to withdraw their money from the bank, despite its firm denials Friday. Yesterday morning, long queues continued to spill out on the streets outside the bank.
Ho urged Macau to restore confidence in the bank's operations.
"This incident has completely no ties with its operation... I hope you refrain from easily believing market rumors. None of us would like to see a blow to our financial system from such unreasonable scenarios," he said.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1999. The tiny territory -- only a 10th the size of Washington, D.C. -- includes a peninsula and two islands in the Pearl River delta in southern China. It is renowned for its gambling and seedy nightlife.
The Macau bank is a unit of Delta Asia Group (Holdings) Ltd., a finance company run by Stanley Au, a Macau businessman, local lawmaker and former gold trader.