SINGAPORE (Mar 20): In the 18 months to Dec 2018, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) secured one criminal conviction, issued 19 prohibition orders and imposed fines totalling $16.8 million.

This according to the very first Enforcement Report published by Singapore's financial regulator.

During the period under review, MAS also issued 37 reprimands, 31 letters of advice, 223 warnings and 444 supervisory reminders.

MAS plans to release a new Enforcement Report every 18 months.

“As Singapore’s financial industry grows in size and complexity, so will the risks of financial misconduct,” says Gillian Tan, Executive Director (Enforcement), MAS.

“Enforcement plays a critical role in financial supervision through the detection, investigation and punishment of serious misconduct. This is intended to deter illegal and unethical behaviour and protect consumers,” she adds.

The report is in line with MAS's preferred approach to enforcement which is to detect misconduct early and serve out warnings instead of waiting for damage to be done, forcing it to unleash its full regulatory powers.

 

 

To be sure, in the past few years, Singapore has seen a few high profile cases of money laundering and share price manipulation.

For instance, Swiss private bank BSI and Falcon Private Bank Singapore Branch were ordered to shut down while several of their bankers were fined or jailed for money-laundering activities connected with Malaysian sovereign fund 1MDB.

MAS’s release of the Enforcement Report on Wednesday also coincided with today's court hearing where Goh Hin Calm, one of the three individuals charged in relation to the 2013 penny stock saga, has pleaded guilty.

In 2013, shares of three penny stocks -- Asiasons Capital now renamed Attilan Group, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp -- were part of a massive market manipulation scheme which saw their share price soar by some 800% over nine months before crashing spectacularly.

In a bid to prevent further market misconduct, MAS is working more closely with brokerages to deter suspicious trading activities.

MAS has recently deployed an in-house system, dubbed Project Apollo, that can help its officials be more efficient in ascertaining market manipulation.

“After Apollo was developed, we tested it using past cases where investigations had been completed and market manipulation was found to have occurred. Apollo’s accuracy rate was 98%, i.e. Apollo was able to correctly assess whether market manipulation had occurred 98% of the time,” says an MAS spokesperson.

Project Apollo, equipped with augmented intelligence, helps MAS perform “triages” by being more selective in deciding which cases to pursue. Project Apollo also differs from SGX’s market surveillance system which monitors unusual market activities in real-time.

MAS says that it takes an average of 33 months to see through criminal prosecutions, 30 months for civil penalties, six months for each regulatory action and three months to refer cases when needed to other agencies.