SINGAPORE: On Wednesday (16 Aug), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) announced a raid involving over 400 officers across the island in a crackdown on money laundering and forgery activities, resulting in the historic seizure of assets amounting to roughly S$1 billion (US$736 million).
Ten individuals, with diverse nationalities but a common Fujian heritage, were arrested and charged in court on Wednesday night with forgery, money laundering, and resisting arrest.
Among them, there is a wide range of nationalities represented, including Cypriot, Turkish, Chinese, Cambodian, and Ni-Vanuatu.
Additionally, twelve individuals are aiding with current investigations, and eight are on the police’s wanted list.
On Friday (18 Aug), the Singapore Police announced that an additional eleven properties have been subjected to prohibition of disposal orders in connection with the case.
This brings the total count of properties under such orders to 105, following the previous issuance of 94 properties. These orders effectively prevent the suspects from selling these properties.
The aggregate worth of these 105 properties is approximately S$831 million. Among them are seven detached bungalows situated at Sentosa Cove and 79 condominium units, including 19 that are still in the construction phase.
Moreover, 19 more properties categorized as commercial or industrial spaces have also been placed under the prohibition of disposal orders.
This high-profile money laundering case has sent shockwaves throughout the entire island, prompting questions about why some of the suspects have seemingly been residing in Singapore for extended periods, dating back as early as 2021.
Singapore Chinese media Lianhe Zaobao earlier reported that one of the arrested individuals, a Chinese national from Fujian, is alleged to have acquired 20 units at CanningHill Piers for an estimated S$85 million in June last year.
Notably, one of the suspects, Su Haijin, was reportedly a shareholder or director in multiple companies and had purportedly received S$36.37 million for a pair of adjacent bungalows in Sentosa Cove.
According to Zaobao, real estate implicated in these high-profile cases will be confiscated by the government and auctioned off after the legal proceedings conclude.
Furthermore, real estate agents who fail to disclose suspicious transactions to buyers during property sales could potentially be in violation of the law.
Around 60 real estate agents who were involved in selling properties to the suspects are expected to be requested to assist in the investigation, Zaobao reported.
In accordance with guidelines from the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), engaging in property transactions while being aware or having reason to believe that the client is using proceeds from drug trafficking or criminal activities to purchase the property is illegal.
Convictions could lead to fines not exceeding S$500,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
In June of this year, the Singapore government implemented a mandate requiring property developers to conduct background checks on buyers.
If suspicious money laundering activities or terrorism financing are identified, they are obligated to report these to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).
An anonymous senior figure in the real estate industry told Zaobao that the government is likely to phase the auctioning of these confiscated properties rather than conducting a mass auction.
This approach ensures that even with the seizure of nearly 100 properties, it won’t disrupt the equilibrium between supply and demand in the auction market.
Chinese buyers dominated the market for non-landed luxury homes in the first half of the year
During the first half of the year, non-landed luxury homes and overall non-landed private homes were most popular among Chinese buyers.
Based on a recent research report by Edmund Tie, the average transaction price for non-landed luxury homes in the first half of the year stood at S$16.9 million, reflecting a 9.6% increase from the second half of the previous year.
This rise can be attributed mainly to the escalating demand for luxury homes among high-net-worth individuals and affluent new immigrants.
However, the situation differs slightly for landed private homes, where the average price experienced a decline of 4.6% to S$20.5 million, compared to a 10.9% increase in the second half of the previous year.
The three most expensive transactions for landed private homes encompassed three premium bungalows on Nassim Road, amounting to a total of S$206.7 million, with a per-square-foot price of S$4,500. The buyers were an Indonesian family.
Notably, Chinese buyers were the largest demographic purchasing non-landed luxury homes during the first half of this year.
Furthermore, they also accounted for the greatest demand for overall non-landed private homes.
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