Singapore has said that it expects further arrests and seizures, as the Asian financial hub investigates one of its largest cases of alleged money laundering, where the amount of assets confiscated has reached $2 billion.
Authorities in the city state noted for its low crime rate conducted simultaneous searches in the middle of August that resulted in the detention of 10 foreign nationals and the confiscation of luxury homes, automobiles, gold bars, designer handbags, and jewellery valued at S$1 billion.
The second minister for home affairs, Josephine Teo, addressed the parliament on Tuesday saying, “This case is a reminder that even the most stringent preventive measures can be circumvented by determined criminals.”
She went on to say that the government will set up an inter-ministerial panel to review the anti-money laundering regime, reflecting learning points drawn from the case.
The inter-ministerial committee, which includes political office holders from the central bank and the ministries of home affairs, law, manpower, and commerce, would be presided over by Indranee Rajah, the second minister of finance.
They will go through four topics: preventing the misuse of business structures; encouraging financial institutions to work together with government agencies; encouraging third parties, such as real estate brokers, to prevent money laundering; and enhancing detection skills.
The government announced that it was reviewing financial institutions that were allegedly connected to the issue and that it would take enforcement action against any of them, as well as their employees, if it was discovered that they had violated central bank regulations.
Agencies are also reviewing processes that include the central bank’s approval for family offices to get tax incentives, and to consider regulating high value assets such as luxury cars and bags.
Teo said, however, that any changes should not “end up unduly inconveniencing legitimate businesses and customers.”
She went on to reveal that the case had been on the radar of police since 2021, after the filing of suspicious transaction reports by financial institutions.
She denied the rumour that the operation was carried out under the direction of China, calling it “completely untrue” in both local and foreign news channels.
“We started investigations because we suspected that offences had been committed in Singapore,” Teo added. “Once we confirmed our suspicions, we acted.”