Taiwan tightening anti-money laundering law after New York regulator fine

August 25, 2016 4:28 AM EDT

A sign of Mega Financial Holding Co is seen outside its headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan August 23, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s cabinet said on Thursday it will tighten some of the island's anti-money laundering regulations to conform more closely to international standards.

The move comes after New York's state financial regulator fined state-run Mega Financial’s <2886.TW> banking unit $180 million for violations of anti-money laundering regulations that included lax attention to risk exposure in Panama.

"The purpose of amending the law is mainly to follow global trends in strengthening anti-money laundering regulations while also strengthening the fight against cross-border telecommunications fraud," Premier Lin Chuan was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the cabinet.

The Taiwan government is investigating whether Mega and its banking unit broke local law.

"We have asked the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) to set up ad hoc groups to determine what happened and who should be held accountable to prevent a similar situation from happening again,” Lin said.

The FSC’s chairman is set to meet with press later today.

Earlier this month, Taiwan's foreign ministry protested after Kenya deported five Taiwanese to China as part of crackdown by Beijing on telecoms fraud. China thanked Kenya and urged Taiwan to support Kenya's action.

One of the proposed changes will require people traveling in and out of Taiwan to declare all Taiwan dollars, Chinese yuan, and gold which they might transfer into Taiwan, rather than just the currency and gold they were carrying with them.

Currently, passengers only have to declare the currency they are traveling with above $10,000, 20,000 yuan or T$100,000, a finance ministry official said. The government is also proposing to increase penalties and expand the scope of the confiscation of property related to money-laundering offenses, it said. The amendments are subject to legislative approval, it said.

(Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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