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Singapore Police Seize Millions, Arresting 10 for Forgery and Money Laundering

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Authorities in Singapore have made ten arrests, seizing illegal assets worth over S$900 million in simultaneous raids nationwide. The raids were the culmination of a forgery and money laundering (ML) investigation facilitated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

MAS Deputy Managing Director (Financial Supervision), Ms Ho Hern Shin, acknowledged financial institutions’ (FIs) indispensable role in reporting the suspicious activity leading to the raids. She continued, “Singapore remains vulnerable to transnational ML/TF risks and …MAS and FIs need to continue to work together to strengthen our defences against these risks.”

How STRs Helped Catch a Crime Ring

MAS and CAD facilitated the investigation due to suspicious transaction reports (STRs) filed by firms that had noticed suspicious activity. Thanks to the information, authorities identified a criminal group suspected of laundering the proceeds of foreign illicit activity, including fraud and gambling. 

Multiple red flags led the FIs to report possibly tainted funds, including:

  • Suspicious flows of funds.
  • Questionable source of wealth documentation.
  • Other inconsistent customer information.

The regulator is actively communicating with the reporting FIs regarding the illicit activity. In addition to emphasizing the importance of FI cooperation and reporting of suspicious transactions, MAS has announced that it will crack down on firms discovered to have lax or noncompliant anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) controls. It reminds firms that it actively works with FIs to curb illicit activity.

Specifically, the authority announced it is conducting AML/CFT inspections of wealth management firms.

Laundering Millions through Luxury Goods

None of the individuals arrested were Singapore nationals or permanent residents. They are suspected of being part of an organized criminal network and came from Cyprus, China, Vanuatu, Turkey, and Cambodia. They face various charges, including:

  • Using a forged document under Section 471 of the Penal Code.
  • Forgery for the purpose of cheating under Section 468 of the Penal Code.
  • Money laundering under Section 54(1)(c) of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA).

The police are still looking for eight additional individuals who have evaded arrest. Four more are assisting police with their investigation.

During the raids, Singapore authorities seized goods and cash worth close to S$1 billion. Items seized included:

  • Cash worth over S$23 million, and two gold bars.
  • Over 270 pieces of jewelry.
  • Fifty luxury vehicles and 94 properties estimated at over S$815 million.
  • Collectible toys.
  • Over 250 luxury watches and bags.

During this ongoing investigation, more assets may be seized or frozen. 

Key Takeaways

MAS has reemphasized its high expectations for firms’ AML/CFT processes. All firms, especially wealth management firms, should ensure their current frameworks align with regulator requirements and their individual risk profiles.

Singapore authorities provide valuable resources to help FIs comply with these standards. The Singapore Police Force has released an in-depth list of key ML red flags firms can consider in their due diligence processes. 

In addition, firms are encouraged to consult the MAS AML resource page, which includes links to the latest guidance, notices, and guidelines, as well as STR forms, the AML/CFT Industry Partnership best practice papers, and details on Collaborative Sharing of ML/TF Information & Cases (COSMIC). 

Still in development, COSMIC will be an information-sharing digital platform allowing FIs to collaborate in tackling financial crime. 

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Originally published 24 August 2023, updated 24 August 2023

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