SINGAPORE: Dr Tan See Leng, Singapore’s Minister of Manpower, recently addressed the Parliament on Tuesday (3 Oct) to explain why the suspects involved in the S$2.8 billion money laundering case were able to obtain Employment Passes (EP) and subsequently reside in Singapore.
All ten individuals who were arrested as part of the multi-billion dollar money laundering investigation either held employment or dependent passes in the city-state.
Dr Tan revealed that these Employment Pass applications were approved because they met the then prevailing work pass requirements on salary and qualifications.
He noted, “When asked for proof of business operations and the ability to pay salaries, the companies which submitted the applications were able to provide supporting documents.”
The Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo, explained in her Ministerial Statement earlier, work pass applicants are screened against a database of blacklisted individuals.
At the time, none of the ten suspects appeared on Interpol’s red notice list when they applied for these passes.
Dr Tan highlighted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conducts rigorous checks to ensure that the work pass framework is not exploited.
These checks focus on detecting false declarations regarding salaries and qualifications, as well as scrutinizing whether companies genuinely operate to cover the declared salaries of their employees.
Dr Tan’s responses were prompted by questions from Members of Parliament regarding MOM’s role in combating anti-money laundering risks.
He reassured the Parliament that MOM would enhance its fraud checks based on real-life cases and insights from the money laundering incident.
“Learning from the profiles of companies and individuals involved in the money laundering incident, we will update our data analytics with high-risk archetypes and strengthen our checks on whether businesses are operational.”
Dr Tan underscored that some individuals may misuse the work pass framework to enter Singapore for illicit activities, including the current money laundering case.
“Some may pretend to be employed by companies that are actually inactive or dormant. But others may operate companies with an active trading front to mask the movement of their ill-gotten gains. ”
“Yet others, still, may own a portfolio of legitimate and illicit businesses. Criminals will constantly find new ways to circumvent our laws and regulations and update their methods over time, making the task of detection even more complex.”
He said MOM’s salary fraud checks should be seen as a first layer of checks to detect companies that do not have business operations to cover the declared salaries of workers.
He further explained on how MOM conducts salary fraud checks and MOM’s role in Whole-of-Government efforts to manage money laundering risks.
on fraud checks. MOM uses data analytics to identify higher-risk work pass applications for greater scrutiny.
Regarding fraud checks, MOM employs data analytics to identify higher-risk work pass applications for more thorough examination.
Any indication of potential salary fraud necessitates companies providing documentary proof of their business operations and financial capacity.
MOM conducts post-issuance checks and may subject companies to audits or additional scrutiny during work pass renewals.
MOM also responds to whistleblower reports to investigate ongoing business operations.
“We continuously sharpen our checks to better identify such fraudulent applications. For instance, we regularly update our data analytics with concluded fraud cases and enforcement findings so that they can more accurately pin-point and flag out applications that are potentially fraudulent. ”
“We conduct audits to detect breaches, and to validate and strengthen our analytics. Our enforcement teams are also trained to detect various forms of salary fraud.”
Regarding MOM’s role in Whole-of-Government efforts, MOM will review and enhance verification checks at various stages.
Minister Indranee, in her speech, shared her commitment to lead an Inter-Ministerial Committee focused on keeping Singapore’s regime aligned with evolving, sophisticated crimes.
Dr Tan said MOM will actively participate in this committee and support efforts to strengthen Singapore’s anti-money laundering regime.
Dr Tan emphasized that the majority of work pass holders come to Singapore to work and contribute positively to the economy. Only a small minority engage in unscrupulous activities.
“We must take a sensible approach to calibrating our checks so that we do not hurt bona fide employers.”
All 10 suspects in S$2.8 billion money laundering case held Singapore Employment and Dependant Passes
As the ongoing investigation into the S$2.8 billion case unfolds, more shocking revelations continue to astonish the people of Singapore.
On 18 August, three days after the police’s islandwide raid, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) disclosed that the 10 arrested foreigners, consisting of nine men and one woman aged between 31 and 44, held Employment (EP) and Dependant Passes (DP).
These ten individuals, originating from diverse nationalities but sharing a common Fujian origin, face a range of charges, including forgery, money laundering, and resisting arrest.
For instance, key suspect Vang Shuiming, a 42-year-old Turkish national originally from Fujian, is wanted by Chinese authorities for illegal online gambling, yet he and his family have managed to evade them and relocate to Singapore since 2019.
Interestingly, Vang’s children are currently attending international schools in Singapore. Furthermore, the court learned that Vang’s wife, son, and daughter each hold passports from Türkiye, China, and Vanuatu.
The court trial also revealed that Cypriot national Su Haijin, one of the key accused, made Singapore his home since 2017; Previously, it had been disclosed that Su Haijin and his brother, Su Baolin had close financial dealings related to two Beach Road properties valued at S$2.2 million in Su Haijin’s name.
Singapore authorities also uncovered that another accused, Wang Baosen had orchestrated the establishment of his wife’s company to secure her an employment pass (EP) in the country.
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