SINGAPORE: Despite an ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption involving Singapore Grand Prix chairman Ong Beng Seng and Transport Minister S. Iswaran, Ong was observed in the paddock during the F1 Singapore Grand Prix last weekend.
The 79-year-old appeared radiant, as evidenced by photos taken on Saturday, (16 Sept), where he was seen alongside Moko, one of the designers affiliated with the fashion and jewellery brand Chrome Hearts.
Dressed in a light blue shirt adorned with a striped pocket, Ong seamlessly mingled with the high-society crowd, engaging in conversations with attendees and embarking on a tour of the paddock.
Moko seemed to relish Ong’s company, going so far as to throw an arm around his shoulders.
Additionally, a Facebook post from Singapore’s state media outlet, The Straits Times, shared photos of Mr Ong interacting with guests on Saturday.
The ST also reported that Mr Ong was seen mingling with paddock attendees over the weekend, and on Sunday, he made an appearance on the track just before the drivers’ parade, where he shook hands with Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.
Arrests of Transport Minister and Billionaire Ong Beng Seng spark intrigue in ongoing CPIB investigation
On 14 July, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) disclosed that both Transport Minister S. Iswaran and prominent billionaire businessman Ong Beng Seng were arrested on 11 July.
Both Mr Ong and Iswaran were subsequently released on bail, with Iswaran’s passport confiscated. The bail amount for Iswaran was not disclosed, but it was known that Ong was granted bail of $100,000.
They are currently cooperating with the authorities in connection with a case that the CPIB had discovered. However, specific details regarding the nature of the probe were not provided by the CPIB.
Mr Ong is renowned as the exclusive shareholder of the Singapore GP, serving as the organizer of this annual sporting event, which forms part of the Formula One World Championship.
In addition, he owns various hotels worldwide. Ong and his wife, businesswoman Cristina Fu, are esteemed members of Singapore’s 25 richest couples.
In 2007, he secured the deal to bring the prestigious Formula One race to Singapore, primarily due to his rapport with former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.
While Singaporeans await further information from the CPIB regarding Minister Iswaran’s arrest, reports by the online media outlet Asia Sentinel suggest that the origins of this affair could be linked to the London trial for fraud involving Bernie Ecclestone, former Formula One CEO.
On 2 August, DPM and Finance Minister Mr Lawrence Wong, noted that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore Police Force, and Attorney General’s Chambers “have worked closely with UK authorities on their investigation and prosecution” of Ecclestone.
He clarified, “Singapore proactively shared relevant information with our UK counterparts, which helped them develop their case.”
Addressing the bank inspection, Mr. Wong said, “In 2017, MAS conducted an inspection of the bank cited in recent media reports to assess its controls for mitigating money laundering and terrorist financing risks. During the inspection, MAS specifically reviewed the bank’s handling of its relationship with Mr Ecclestone.”
He elaborated on the findings, stating, “While MAS found that there was room for improvement in the bank’s anti-money laundering processes, it did not find gaps or weaknesses that were systemic in nature. ”
“MAS also noted that when adverse news about Mr Ecclestone first surfaced in 2013, the bank promptly subjected the account to enhanced monitoring controls by requiring all transactions to be flagged for scrutiny and approval.”
As for the future, Mr Wong promised, “MAS will continue to work with financial institutions to ensure that our financial sector’s defenses against financial crime remain robust.”
Mr Wong was responding to Parliamentary questions (PQ) filed by Chua Kheng Wee and He Ting Ru, both Members of Parliament for Seng Kang GRC from the Workers’ Party.
Chua questioned whether the MAS was satisfied with the anti-money laundering measures at the bank where Ecclestone’s funds are allegedly held; while Ms He asked if the Singapore Government had received any requests from UK law enforcement agencies regarding the Ecclestone case, and, if so, what the nature of the provided assistance was.
The case revolves around Ecclestone being accused of acting “dishonestly” and intending to gain by providing misleading information about his assets to the UK government’s HMRC officers.
The charges stem from an allegation that Ecclestone failed to declare a substantial trust fund held in Singapore, a claim Ecclestone has consistently denied.
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