China’s ‘Smurfs’ Beat Cash Controls, Sending Real Estate Soaring


Is it okay to let Chinese violate their own currency controls?

New Condo Construction Ahead Of Housing Starts

A “Now Selling” sign is displayed at a condominium under construction in Vancouver.

Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

When Chinese nationals move money overseas, they often do it the way drug traffickers or terrorists do: They break down cash into small amounts below what would trigger official scrutiny.

Moving money in small increments to avoid reporting requirements is called “smurfing,” after the little blue cartoon characters who as small individuals constitute a larger whole. A record $194 billion exited China in September, according to a Bloomberg gauge estimating capital flows. The Chinese use numerous tactics to transfer money abroad, and smurfing is routine, with some of the cash flowing into overheated property markets in Vancouver, Hong Kong, New York and Sydney…

China’s ‘Smurfs’ Beat Cash Controls, Sending Real Estate Soaring

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