The letter from Banco Delta Asia lawyers to the US Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, described the Macau-based bank as a "relatively small, family-owned institution" that was unable to check big batches of currency for fake bills.
 
'No evidence'
 
The US accuses North Korea of running a
sophisticated counterfeiting operation [EPA]
The letter was dated October 18, but has only now been released by the US Treasury.
 
The lawyers said the bank used its own older equipment to check smaller deposits from retail customers, but that "did not function as well as the equipment used at HSBC New York."
 
As a result, they said, the North Korean money could have been laundered, but there is no specific evidence that the bank was aware that it was being used for this purpose.''
 
An HSBC spokesman in Hong Kong said the bank would not comment on individual companies, but added: "We take money laundering control very seriously.
 
"We comply stringently with anti-money-laundering regulations issued by our various regulators, including in the US."
 
US sanctions against North Korea and Banco Delta Asia were imposed in 2005 after the Bush administration accused the North Korean government of running a sophisticated money laundering and counterfeiting operation of US banknotes.
 
At the time the US Treasury Department labelled the bank a "willing pawn" in North Korean efforts to launder money and handle counterfeit US currency.
 
The allegations and resulting embargo enraged North Korea, which walked out of six-party talks on its nuclear programme saying no progress could be made on the issue unless the sanctions were lifted.
 
US and North Korea officials held two days of talks in Beijing this week over US financial sanctions against on the North.
 
Connections
 
The case has thrown the spotlight on ties
between Macau and North Korea [EPA]
The outcome of the talks has not been made clear, although a new round of six-party nuclear talks is set to resume in Beijing on February 8.
 
The counterfeiting allegations have put connections between the small Chinese territory of Macau and the North Korean government under the spotlight.
 
Several North Korean trading companies are reported to have operated offices in the territory, staffed by North Koreans on diplomatic passports, and there are occasional flights by the North Korean state airline, Air Koryo, into Macau's airport from Pyongyang.
 
On Thursday the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that the elder son of Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, was living in Macau along with his family and was regularly seen gambling at the territory's casinos.