BOC faces $50,000 daily fine

By PAUL WELITZKIN (China Daily USA)     Updated : 2015-12-02

Bank of China Ltd faces a fine of $50,000 for each day it refuses to turn over account information on Chinese customers suspected of selling counterfeit luxury goods.

The fine will be imposed starting on Dec 8, unless the Chinese bank complies with subpoena requests for the records after a ruling by US District Court Judge Richard Sullivan on Tuesday in New York.

Last week, Bank of China (BOC) was held in contempt of court for failing to disclose the account records. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by luxury goods maker Gucci and other luxury brands in 2010, seeking account records belonging to the alleged sellers of counterfeit merchandise. Bank of China is not a defendant in the case.

Gucci had urged Sullivan to fine Bank of China $12 million.

A statement from Allen & Overy LLP, Bank of China’s law firm, said the contempt order and sanctions imposed by the court are unwarranted, and the bank intends to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which previously reversed a similar order by the judge against the bank.

"Had the plaintiff requested or the district court permitted Bank of China to use the Hague Evidence Convention, this drawn-out dispute could have been avoided. Use of the Hague Convention, an international treaty adopted by 58 nations for resolving precisely these kinds of legal issues, would have been more respectful of the bank's responsibility not to violate Chinese law by subjecting its citizens' bank account information to the orders of foreign courts," the statement said.

The Hague Evidence Convention is a legal process that was used successfully by jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co in a similar case several years ago. Under the Hague Convention, forms are filed in a US court requesting information. After the court approves the request, it is then forwarded to the Ministry of Justice in China. The Chinese agency then decides what, if any, records will be released.