TL;DR – S$2.8 billion in seized or frozen assets from this massive money laundering case now. SG’s robust AML regime to be further strengthened as criminals become savvier.
In August 2023, ten persons were arrested and charged for offences including laundering proceeds from overseas criminal activities, and their seizable assets in Singapore were seized. This AML police operation has actually strengthened our reputation as a high quality financial centre, and for law and order! It shows that our system is able to detect suspicious individuals and activities, and that when we do, we have the resolve and capabilities to take them to task. It further signals to investors that Singapore runs a clean system as we keep our doors open, at the same time keeping a close eye out for criminal activities.
The 2.8 billion in assets seized
S$2.8 billion in seized or frozen assets from this massive, transnational money laundering case now. Curious as to what they are? We are talking about 68 gold bars, 294 luxury bags, 164 luxury watches, 546 pieces of jewellery, 204 electronic devices, 152 properties, 62 vehicles, wine, ornaments and so on… While the rest of us common folks drool, many are kaypoh as to how these assets are gonna be handled? Huat for our reserves??
In Parliament today, Josephine Teo shared that the seized assets will be dealt with accordingly and under our laws, depending on the findings. The disposal will then be conducted by the courts.
As this is one of Singapore’s largest AML operation, many other Parliamentary Questions were also filed. MPs questioned:
- the effectiveness of Singapore’s existing measures to detect and counter money laundering activities; and
- whether additional measures are needed to curb money laundering in Singapore.
AML detection: The beginning of that $2.8 billion money laundering case
The intelligence gathering for a major operation is on a scale like no other. In 2021, our anti-money laundering regime picked up a few signals. In early 2022, the Police launched a comprehensive, coordinated intelligence probe, uncovering a web of individuals believed to have connections amongst themselves. In this case, investigations started because we suspected that offences had been committed in Singapore! Ownself check ownself works after all huh.
Singapore’s approach can be summarised as a 3-pronged strategy:
- First, Prevention, underpinned by a robust legal and regulatory framework to deter criminals.
- Detection anchored by our STR regime and supervision by sectoral regulators.
- Enforcement, taking strong action when there is suspicion of money laundering.
Don’t doubt this, Singapore has in place a very robust AML regime. We have always been held in high regard internationally for our strong, principled and no-nonsense approach to taking down law-breakers!
The Singapore Way – Improving an already robust AML regime
This case is a reminder that even the most stringent preventive measures can be circumvented. There are ongoing reviews in the various sectors, to tighten our AML regime. Singapore will consider further measures to strengthen our regime.
Nevertheless, zero tolerance of money laundering does not mean zero occurrence. This is not the first time Singapore has detected and acted against such money launderers, nor will it be the last. Even as we identify new areas to tighten, criminals will find new loopholes to exploit. As criminals become increasingly sophisticated, our AML efforts must be a constant endeavour. Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah will be leading an inter-ministerial committee involving the relevant sectoral regulators.
We can’t be under the illusion that we can always keep out dirty money.
Calling this case one of the largest anti-money laundering operations in the world, Mrs Teo said: “We will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against people who would use Singapore as a haven to launder proceeds of crime. We will deal with them and their ill-gotten gains to the fullest extent of our laws.”