Billion-dollar money laundering case: Singapore police began ‘comprehensive intelligence probe’ in early 2022

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ASSETS SEIZED OR FROZEN She then gave an update on the total value of assets seized or issued with prohibition of disposal orders. The police had last said on Sep 20 that the total value stood at more than S$2.4 billion. Since then, they have conducted “further operations and extensive investigations”, bringing the figure up to more than S$2.8 billion, said Mrs Teo. These include: Prohibition of disposal orders issued against 152 properties and 62 vehicles with a total estimated value of more than S$1.24 billion Thousands of bottles of liquor and wine More than S$1.45 billion seized from bank accounts More than S$76 million in cash, including foreign currencies More than S$38 million in cryptocurrencies 68 gold bars 294 luxury bags 164 luxury watches 546 pieces of jewellery As police investigations are ongoing, more arrests could be made and more assets could be seized, said Mrs Teo. The police are also working closely with sectoral regulators and will take action against companies and individuals if they have broken the law, such as by abetting money laundering, Mrs Teo said. The sectoral regulators – including government agencies that oversee corporate service providers, real estate agents and financial institutions – will take action if there is negligence or non-compliance with anti-money laundering requirements, she added. As for whether charitable donations made by some of the 10 suspects are being investigated, Mrs Teo said that some charities have decided to ringfence these donations. Others have lodged police reports and plan to surrender the monies to the police. She added: “We probed extensively to uncover the linkages. We were comprehensive in our actions and operation. “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.” She told the House that as a major financial hub, this is not the first or last time that Singapore has taken serious enforcement action against money laundering offences. For example, in the 1MDB case, the police “extensively investigated” individuals suspected of committing offences in Singapore, while the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) “thoroughly examined” financial institutions through which the funds flowed, said Mrs Teo. Among enforcement actions taken was the seizure or prohibition of assets amounting to more than S$240 million. Four bankers were prosecuted in court, including Yeo Jiawei, a former BSI banker who was sentenced to four-and-a-half years’ jail in July 2017 for money laundering and cheating. Another example cited by Mrs Teo was the Wirecard fraud scandal that emerged from Germany. Three banks and an insurer in Singapore have been issued penalties totalling S$3.8 million for failure to perform customer due diligence and to adequately establish the sources of wealth of high-risk customers. Seven individuals have been charged in court, with three being convicted of offences that include money laundering. “Singapore is an attractive place for investments and businesses. There is political and economic stability, strong rule of law, and transparency. People are assured that their money is safe here,” Mrs Teo said. Criminals seeking to launder money will try to exploit Singapore’s economic openness and its strong reputation for rule of law, she noted. Mrs Teo added that the government will continuously review its practices even with stringent measures in place, with the aim to “reduce risk, have a robust alert system and take prompt enforcement action” when illegal activities surface, such as in this case. “We must also not fool ourselves into thinking that no news is good news. Instead, we must have the capability to detect wrongdoings, and when we do, have the resolve to act decisively and robustly,” she said.

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