To gauge just how much China money is flooding into the Hong Kong stock market, there is nothing more revealing than a woman caught hiding a million yuan worth of notes under her bra.
That’s not to say our stock market has become sexy but that somehow tells us why the stock exchange is doing HK$200 billion (US$25.8 billion) worth of transactions a day.
As one might expect, the story made the headlines in two dailies — Apple and Oriental — with details about how a Hong Kong woman could possibly carry HK$1.5 million worth of notes in HK$1,000 bills and 50,000 euros on her body.
Easy: the cash was stuffed into packets and strapped to her chest, waist, inner thighs and soles.
Call her a cash mule or financial ant but the woman did not do it for nothing. For her trouble, she was paid HK$500 a day.
Cross-border smuggling is a booming business in Hong Kong.
Before cash was trafficked in vast amounts over the border, everything from powdered milk to appliances and toilet paper had been the favorite currency of parallel traders. They still are.
That prompted Hong Kong authorities to impose limits on goods that can be taken out of Hong Kong. For instance, each person is allowed only two iPhones and two canned formula at a time.
We suspect some enterprising moneybags have organized a small army of couriers to sneak cash into Hong Kong from the mainland.
A small army of human mules can skirt a new China policy that restricts residents of neighboring Shenzhen to one visit permit to Hong Kong per week.
We think the culprits are maximizing the load factor, making the commodity-to-money, two-day body traffic in great demand, especially when the Shenzhen-Hong Kong stock trading scheme comes on stream this year.
Many mainland banks in Guangdong province offer cross-border account opening services which include Hong Kong dollar “loans” to mainlanders who deposit the equivalent amount in yuan.
There are reports the increased cross-border movement of physical money is being orchestrated by underground lenders eager to supply cash to investors after a buying frenzy exhausted the daily quota of Hong Kong-Shanghai Stock Connect.
But don’t expect them to be indiscreet. That’s why we have yet to hear of someone being caught with a Samsonite groaning with cash.
Instead, we are likely to see more of these slow-moving, bulked-up, weighed-down couriers who are as easy to spot as a tax collector.
A bigger “wonder bra” with zipper that can hold extra cash may be the next big thing.
Watch this space.
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