Singapore has revealed that it is currently investigating one of its most substantial suspected money laundering cases, with the total value of seized assets now reaching a staggering S$2.8 billion (equivalent to $2 billion USD). This development comes as authorities in the Asian financial hub conducted simultaneous raids in mid-August, leading to the arrest of ten foreign individuals and the confiscation of a range of high-value assets, including luxury properties, cars, gold bars, designer handbags, and jewelry, collectively valued at S$1 billion.
Josephine Teo, the second minister for home affairs, addressed the Singaporean parliament regarding this high-profile case, emphasizing its significance as a reminder that determined criminals can find ways to bypass even the strictest preventive measures. She stated, "This case is a reminder that even the most stringent preventive measures can be circumvented by determined criminals."
In response to the situation, the government is establishing an inter-ministerial panel to assess and enhance the country's anti-money laundering framework. This move reflects the lessons learned from this complex case. Indranee Rajah, the second minister for finance, will chair the inter-ministerial committee, which will include political office holders from various ministries, including the central bank, home affairs, law, manpower, and trade ministries. They will focus on four key areas: preventing the abuse of corporate structures, fostering collaboration among financial institutions and authorities, enlisting the support of third-party entities like real estate agents to combat money laundering, and enhancing detection capabilities.
Singaporean authorities are also actively scrutinizing financial institutions suspected of involvement in the money laundering case. Any institutions or their staff found to have breached central bank requirements will face enforcement action. Additionally, regulatory agencies are reviewing processes related to the central bank's approval for family offices to receive tax incentives and considering the regulation of high-value assets such as luxury cars and bags. However, the government is keen on ensuring that any changes do not unduly inconvenience legitimate businesses and customers.
According to Teo, the case had been under the police's radar since 2021, following the submission of suspicious transaction reports by financial institutions. She strongly refuted speculations in both local and international news outlets that the operation was initiated at the request of China, asserting that Singapore initiated the investigation due to suspicions of offenses committed within its jurisdiction. "We started investigations because we suspected that offenses had been committed in Singapore," Teo stated unequivocally. "Once we confirmed our suspicions, we acted."
By fLEXI tEAM