By Lingling Wei
BEIJING — In a rare public tussle between two powerful arms of the Chinese government, China’s state broadcaster took aim at Bank of China Ltd. on Wednesday, accusing the lender of laundering money and helping clients skirt the country’s controls on cross-border fund transfers.
During a morning news program, China Central Television aired a nearly 20-minute-long report that said Bank of China’s branches in several cities transferred large amounts of cash abroad for customers planning to emigrate. In some cases, it said, the bank worked with immigration agents to help clients disguise the origins of their funds.
In exchange, Bank of China /zigman2/quotes/204682472/delayed HK:3988 +0.65% /zigman2/quotes/209359942/delayed CN:601988 +0.61% /zigman2/quotes/201568493/delayed BACHY +0.25% would charge handsome commissions on the transactions, the CCTV report said.
“It is puzzling that a big state-owned bank like Bank of China would engage in a shadowy business like this,” the CCTV report said.
Bank of China said the CCTV report was “factually incorrect” and that there is misunderstanding about how its cross-border money-transfer business works. In conducting the business, the bank said, it adheres to regulatory requirements, including those prohibiting money laundering.
CCTV, one of China’s biggest and most-influential propaganda arms, occasionally criticizes both foreign and domestic companies, often spurring its targets to apologize and make good with their customers.
Last year, it accused Starbucks /zigman2/quotes/207508890/composite SBUX +0.74% of charging as much as 50% more for some of its products in China than in the U.S., the U.K. and India. The coffee company said the figures didn’t accurately represent the company’s Chinese operations and cited factors such as higher real-estate costs because Chinese customers prefer larger stores.
Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/206919008/delayed XE:VOW +3.50% said in March 2013 it would recall about 384,000 vehicles due to gearbox problems. The move followed a critical CCTV report that quoted a number of unhappy VW customers about problems they saw in their cars.
In April 2013, Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.39% Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a letter that the gadget maker would revamp aspects of its customer-service policies in China after more than two weeks of criticism by CCTV and other government-run media.
But rarely has CCTV gone after big state-owned businesses. Bank of China is one of China’s big four state-controlled lenders and often acts to fund China’s policy goals.
Mark Magnier and Kersten Zhang in Beijing and Gregor Hunter in Hong Kong contributed to this article.