Bank of China says will cooperate with Italian prosecutors

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China's fourth-largest lender the Bank of China Ltd <3988.HK> on Tuesday said it would respond to any formal request for information from Italian authorities investigating alleged money laundering and other financial crimes at its Milan branch.

But the bank said it had not received any formal documents from Italian prosecutors in relation to the investigation into the branch and 297 individuals, mostly Chinese living in Italy.

"The bank will closely follow the development of the relevant legal proceedings and provide timely disclosure in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations," the bank said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse.

"In respect of anti-money laundering, the bank constantly improves its anti-money laundering management and control system, actively fulfils its anti-money laundering duties and obligations."

The bank said it was aware of media reports in 2012 that Italian authorities had contacted its Milan branch requesting cooperation with an investigation into funds transfers to China and its remittance business.

According to a formal request by the prosecutor seen by Reuters on Saturday, more than 4.5 billion euros ($5.1 billion) was smuggled to China from Italy between 2006 and 2010 using the Money2Money (M2M) transfer service.

It said 2.2 billion euros of that had been sent via the Bank of China's <601988.SS> Milan branch.

Bank of China's Hong Kong-listed shares closed up nearly 2 percent on Monday.

(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Stephen Coates)

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