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Singapore proposes tougher law to catch money launderers

Bloomberg • 2 min read
Singapore proposes tougher law to catch money launderers
A luxury vehicle seized by police at a residence of Su Jianfeng, one of the suspects in the S$2.8 billion money-laundering case, in Singapore in October 2023. Photo: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg
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Singapore introduced legislation designed to tighten gaps around policing illicit money flows after a high-profile case that rocked the Asian financial hub.

The new bill will allow authorities to prosecute suspected offenders more effectively, without the need to directly link illicit gains to the original crime, according to the Anti-Money Laundering and Other Matters Bill proposed in parliament Tuesday. 

Currently, law-enforcement authorities face challenges in obtaining evidence from victims and authorities overseas, especially when criminal proceeds come from other jurisdictions, according to a press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

The planned legislation is the latest example of Singapore’s attempts to police the influx of foreign wealth after the nation’s biggest-ever money laundering case last year. The $3 billion online gambling case accounted for about half of some $6 billion seized in total in such cases over the past five years, official data show. 

The bill will also allow law enforcement officers to investigate money laundering linked to serious environmental crimes in other jurisdictions such as illegal mining, by designating them as serious offences under Singapore’s laws. The city can currently only investigate a crime outside the country if it is also a serious offence under its own law. 

The government vowed to identify and address any gaps exploited by money-launderers after the case broke in August. An inter-ministerial committee has since been in discussions with banks, family offices, real estate agents and precious-metals dealers to strengthen checks on clients.

See also: Six family office funds tied to Singapore launder case got tax breaks

Singapore has also been demanding more information from family offices and hedge funds while stepping up closures of dormant firms, Bloomberg News has reported. 

The nation is the world’s third-largest hub for offshore funds, after Switzerland and Hong Kong, according to a 2023 report by Boston Consulting Group, which estimated some US$1.5 trillion ($2.04 trillion) of assets parked in the city-state. 

In January, China’s foreign-affairs ministry said it is stepping up cooperation with Singapore to crack down on cross-border money laundering crimes. 

See also: Singapore updates money laundering risk assessment, the first since 2014

Other proposed changes from the bill:

  • Agencies can share tax and trade data to detect money laundering
  • Lower the threshold for checks on cash deposits received by casinos

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