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Singapore flags banks as top money laundering risk post S$3B money laundering scandal

According to Singapore’s latest Money Laundering National Risk Assessment, the banking sector and wealth management pose the highest money laundering risk in the city-state.



SINGAPORE: Singapore’s banking sector, along with wealth management, presents the highest risk of money laundering in the city-state, according to the latest Money Laundering National Risk Assessment (MLNRA) published by the government on Thursday (20 June).

The Home Affairs Ministry, Ministry of Finance and the Monetary Authority of Singapore emphasized in a joint statement that banks face heightened exposure to money laundering threats due to the sheer volume of transactions they handle and their dealings with customers from high-risk jurisdictions.

This is Singapore’s first national risk assessment report since 2014, and its updated findings will guide ongoing efforts to ensure that the city-state’s anti-money laundering regime remains responsive to identified risks.

The report coincided with the sentencing of all 10 Fujian-origin individuals involved in a landmark S$3 billion money laundering case, receiving jail terms ranging from 13 to 17 months.

Following the emergence of the money laundering case last year, Singapore established an interministerial panel to review and strengthen its anti-money laundering measures, particularly concerning the inflow of wealth and high-net-worth individuals.

High risk identified in the banking sector

The report identifies various money laundering (ML) threats, including cyber-enabled fraud, organized crime, corruption, tax evasion, and trade-based money laundering.

According to the assessment, Singapore’s status as a leading international financial hub and trade centre makes it susceptible to exploitation by criminal entities seeking to launder illicit funds through its robust economic infrastructure.

The assessment highlights that illicit funds frequently flow into or through Singapore via bank accounts.

This process often involves rapid cross-border transactions facilitated by third parties, including individuals acting as “mules” or corporate entities misusing shell companies.

Instances of money laundering through Singapore-incorporated shell companies controlled by criminal networks are noted.

These entities’ bank accounts are exploited to disguise illicit proceeds as legitimate business transactions, potentially involving significant cross-border movements and withdrawals in cash.

“Overall, banks are assessed to be more vulnerable to money laundering, ” the report noted.

Singapore has a sophisticated and interconnected banking system comprising over 150 banks. As of the end of 2023, the banking sector had a total asset size of almost S$3.5 trillion.

Risks associated with Digital Payment Token (DPT) service providers

The assessment also singled out digital payment token (DPT) service providers as another emerging area of concern within Singapore’s financial landscape.

Internationally, DPTs have been linked to cyber-enabled fraud, theft, ransomware, and transactions on darknet markets as sources of illicit revenue from 2017 to 2022.

Singapore authorities have noted a rise in reported cases involving DPTs, primarily linked to fraud and cybersecurity offences under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA).

The report identifies three main avenues of exploitation:

  1. Payment Method: Instances where ransomware demands payment in DPTs or impersonation scams involving settlement fees paid in DPTs.
  2. Marketed Product: Scams like Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) or e-commerce schemes selling fraudulent DPTs.
  3. Targeted Item: Unauthorized transactions leading to the theft of DPTs, such as hacking of online wallets or scams where victims unknowingly reveal wallet details.

Nevertheless, the report noted that there has been a notable increase in STRs filed concerning DPTs, indicating heightened awareness and understanding of risks among regulated sectors dealing with DPTs.

High ML risks identified in corporate service providers, real estate, casinos, and precious metals sectors

Among the Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBP), corporate service providers and real estate sectors are noted for their elevated ML risks, primarily due to their role in facilitating the misuse of legal entities and handling significant financial transactions.

Corporate Service Providers (CSPs), Real Estate Agents/Developers, Casinos, Precious Stones and Metals Dealers are categorized with medium to high ML risks due to their susceptibility to being used for incorporating shell companies and facilitating illicit fund flows.

Lawyers and Accountants are noted for lower but still significant ML risks within their respective roles, the report added.

The assessment underscores the diverse laundering techniques observed, including the misuse of structures like shell companies to obscure illicit fund origins and finance high-value assets.

In response to these findings, Singapore affirms its commitment to enhancing AML measures across sectors.

“Singapore remains committed to reviewing and putting in place appropriate measures to address the identified risks. The findings in the updated ML NRA will guide our ongoing efforts to ensure that our AML regime keeps pace with the identified risks.”

These include continued risk-targeted efforts to sensitise Financial Institutions (FIs) and DNFBPs to the key, new and emerging ML risks, as well as to allow more timely detection, disruption and enforcement of illicit activities by law enforcement and supervisory agencies.

NUS professor highlights concerns over transactions in offshore jurisdictions

Commenting on Singapore’s latest money laundering risk assessment, Mak Yuen Teen, an accounting professor at the National University of Singapore, emphasized that the report underscores the pervasive nature of money laundering risk as a simultaneous and widespread phenomenon.

Professor Mak in a LinkedIn post questioned the extent of this risk among listed companies, particularly given Singapore’s large number of foreign-listed firms and entities with foreign ownership.

He also pointed out frequent instances of transactions involving undisclosed third parties or entities in jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cayman Islands, where ultimate beneficial owners remain undisclosed.

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Is the SG government pushing the blame of money laundering to the banks?

Don’t forget all these started when the ex-PM, now SM, welcomed these people with open arms and legs in.

All because of greed, it doesn’t matter if the money was dirty!

The successful persecution of the famous Fujian gang clearly shows to the world in general and US in particular that SG is never interested to put up any painful deterrent regime as an effective way to prevent the inflow of dirty money into our banking system.Instead,the regime continue to adhere to their vision of “billionaires do help create jobs for SG voters”and “what wrong with having more money mentality” nevermind the devastating hardship that these money can create for the 1,500,000 SG citizens who qualify for Pappy’s annual handouts.The ease with which rich and “famous” ‘s family offices are approved… Read more »

The National No Blame Culture is IMMENSELY on show DAILY.

Pushing back Pushing back is ONE of their EFFECTIVE TOOLS to Fleece, to Con, to Deflect, to Absolve. Fanstastic governance attractive to multitudes of Trash congregating in SG, the world’s most expensive city, to Create Jobs, to Add Diversity, to Create Buzz (this is the trademark word of Goh Chok Tong.

However the PAP could possibly be secretly, quietly planning their fortified escape bunker.

This is chiak lat with a capital F, … preceded by W T !!! Banks are the frontline defence against money laundering and financial crimes. All staff should and must be well trained in monitoring and collecting customer information, monitoring their transactions and banking behaviours and reporting any and all suspicious activities to its relevant authorities. Calling itself a financial hub, an epicentre and now it’s authority are claiming that the island’s banks are it’s top risk to such activities. Disastrous news for it’s standing and vainglorious claims, but, … great news for scammers, launderers and hard criminals looking for… Read more »

See all the officials talking BS on media about their “continuous” vigilance against money laundering. It seems the MLNRA was last done 10 years ago; in corporates RA (risk assessment) is done continuously week-by-week, month-by-month. MOM keeps finding faults about construction deaths due to non-observance of RA/safety measures. Yet MOF only quickly initiated a MLNRA update after the embarrassing 3b money laundering case. Just another example that our million$ monkeys are in reactive mode, sleeping most of the times.

No one can see this:

The Cruel PAP play CRUEL jokes on Singaporeans.

How long can Singaporeans tolerate?

Give oneself a relevant answer.

The quick & the usual snake charming song & dance of the the BLACK MAMBA & his hirelings??!!?

How is it preventive measures are not in place and so much time and effort is spent in the aftermath? Whenever the Public writes in media or forums, we are completely ignored. Many on Gutzy had written when the property market suddenly went upswing that it was money laundering. It was the same with Family Offices. Either this ignoring is wilful or there are greenhorns making decisions at State level. The incompetence, dishonesty and coverup at every level of the civil service is showing. The amount of money being laundered and the no. of undesirables in the State cannot have… Read more »

This MLNRA nonsenses reported that banks are at risk, at risk of what exactly? At the very worst, the banks are at risk of being used to money launder, it is Singapore money reserve that is at the risk of losing money. These laundered money usually get transferred out of Singapore once they are “cleaned” permanently. Money spent during the laundry benefits no Singaporeans as they are not being used to help with the building of the nation or hiring. Maybe the only benefit of the collection of gst when they buy luxurious items but that’s nothing compared to what… Read more »

And how many bank service disruptions had we seen just this year??? It is clear our protocols are not as strong as they paint it to be. Recall during covid, they bragged about the stringent measures at our airport BUT forgot to implement likewise measures at the Jurong Fishery center. Covid virus only transmits through air travel, not sea travel hor?

Stating the obvious!
Anyone with working braincells oredy figured that out..

Last assessment in 2014..?? Then in between enact laws to allow family offices, investment offices..?? After the 3 billion and 10 years later, do another assessment..?? But Extremely quick, to POFMA, defamation suite, parliamentary committees.. to ensure critics are silenced.. as quick as in hours… Singapore is very small, they say. But we have vehicles with false or cloned registration numbers we have hundreds of drug mules going in and out we have thousands of cameras… no less than 30 outside MRT stations we even have space for F1 races..!!! we even have space for airshows…!!! we even have space… Read more »

When MAS lost 100s of Millions of Dollars of Singaporeans Hard Earned Money, who bear the lost? Who was punished?

MAS don’t know about Fujian Gang Billions of Dollars of Laundry – you’d believe MAS was sleeping?

OCBC is owned by relatives of Dr Tony Tan.
DBS is owned by Temasek (PAP?)
UOB owned by powerful Wee Family.
PAP Politicians DARED to say bad things about them?
PAP Politicians DARED to SCOLD them?
PAP DARED to hold them accountable when who are involved in SG as Fin Centre?
LJ PAP always claimed they DO the Right Things – what is right or wrong? Who Defines?

Unless the money is carried in suitcases into our island, it must have been transferred through the banks. The banks in turn have to inform MAS of large transfers. So how is it Law Firms, Accounting Firms, Developers and Real Estate Agents are held responsible when the transfer of monies are done through the banks?

It’s always about others and blame others than themselves.

Government agencies and banks have the most resources at their disposal, both billions of $ and manpower and technologies, but what they were doing all these while?

No, bank can easily pay a few million dollars in fine if caught as they make billions dollars a year. But they push these responsibilities and checking to the lower ranks of the society, lawyers, accounting firms and property agents. Some of whom barley make a living and want these individuals and firms to do the checking on professional launderers and criminals

Last edited 25 days ago by Singapore Fooled Again n Again

How do you even get bundles of currency like that? WHERE can you get bundles of currency like that? Only from the bank right? Shouldn’t the bank smell a fish if someone wants to withdraw cash in quantities like that?

Look. PAP Administration IS GETTING OFF the Rails.

Let’s ASSIST the PAP – get them DERAIL this GE. Best News is PAP derail and SG has new POLITICAL Administration – without PAP SG can MARCH towards FASTER PROGRESS BECAUSE the HEAVY weight Of Multi Million Dollars Salaries is a DAMN HEAVY BAGGAGE Drag.

BIG Biggie Ownself lie Ownself.

Ownself contradict ownself.

Once said Rich Create jobs. Now claimed Rich poses Money Laudering Risks.

Wayang wayang. Nothing but wayang. Singaporeans are REGULARLY BOMBARDED with TRASH after TRASH and MORE TRASH.

Eff the PAP is the SOLUTION for layman’s HEADACHE.

No lah

It is Property Agent fault lah

Very simple as ABC