by Gilbert Tan
The Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Mr Leong Mun Wai, would have put in much thought when he asked in the parliament sitting on 3 October 2023, and I quote,
‘And in relation to the amount of money that has come into our system
and the potential amount of profits that the banks can make from it, we must have penalties that are proportional to the potential profits’.
This statement made by the NCMP was in relation to the S$2.8 Billion laundering case of the ten foreign suspects of Chinese origins.
Although the Commercial Crime Department or the Police may have asked the banks to ‘freeze’ the ill-gotten money, does it mean that the money is left in a static position?
Of course not!
As a major financial centre rivalling that of the United Kingdom, where our local bank CEOs are paid millions of dollars in bonuses each year, we are not known for sitting idling by with our money.
This means that banks can continue to use this ‘laundered’ money to generate more funds through means such as holding it as capital.
If I may steal the thunder from Mr Leong, what the NCMP meant is actually, ‘Is the government sitting idle and watching the banks reaping in profits using the S$2.8 billion?’
There’s a lot the banks can do with that money.
I am indeed surprised that the 2nd Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo, has missed the forest for the trees. How is the whole-of-government approach led by Ms Indranee Rajah helpful in this response?
As the investigation of the perpetrators may take some time to complete, one year, two or five years, the forfeiture itself can generate a larger sum of money in the form of additional income by the banks, much larger than the original forfeiture of S$2.8 billion over this period of time.
And more importantly, this is not counting the ballooning of additional forfeiture as yet to be unearthed together with additional earnings by the banks.
So the NCMP is right when the MSM reported that ‘He had asked if fines imposed on banks in money laundering cases are proportional to the amount of profit they could make from holding these funds.’
The NCMP is laser-sharp in saying the banks should not only return the ill-gotten money to the government at the end of the court trials but, more importantly, together with the additional money earned by the banks.
Is this so difficult for the government to understand?
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