Money Laundering

Assets seized from Money Launder: Photo: Singapore Police Force

The total value of assets seized in the money laundering case, making headlines in Singapore, has now surged past the staggering mark of $2.8 billion, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing investigation. This revelation comes from none other than Josephine Teo, Singapore’s second minister for home affairs, who disclosed this jaw-dropping figure during a parliamentary session on October 3, 2023.

This immense sum encompasses a wide array of assets, including a total of 152 properties and 62 high-end vehicles, collectively appraised at over $1.24 billion. The assets also comprise substantial sums of cash in various bank accounts, exceeding $1.45 billion, in addition to a significant cache of physical cash, totaling more than $76 million. To further complicate matters, the investigators have unearthed cryptocurrencies valued at an astounding $38 million.

This latest development represents a remarkable threefold increase from the initial estimation of $1 billion when this high-profile case first came to light in mid-August. It’s not just monetary assets that have been seized; law enforcement authorities have also confiscated thousands of bottles of fine liquor and wine, 68 gold bars, 294 luxury bags, 164 opulent watches, and a dazzling collection of 546 pieces of exquisite jewelry.

Josephine Teo disclosed that the initial hints of this money laundering case surfaced in 2021, and by early 2022, the police had initiated an intelligence investigation. To maintain the element of surprise and prevent alerting the suspects, the entire operation was carried out discreetly by a select group of officers. All overt investigative actions were deliberately delayed.

In a significant move, all ten suspects involved in this elaborate money laundering scheme have been apprehended and are currently denied bail, while investigations continue to unfold.

In response to this seismic development, Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah announced during the parliamentary session on October 3 that a new inter-ministerial committee will be formed. This committee, chaired by Rajah herself, will include representatives from key government bodies such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Manpower, and Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The primary focus of this committee will be fourfold:

  • first, to devise strategies to prevent corporate structures from being exploited by money launderers;
  • second, to enhance the controls and collaborative efforts of financial institutions in order to detect and report suspicious transactions more effectively;
  • third, to engage other stakeholders such as corporate service providers, real estate agents, and precious metals dealers in the fight against money laundering risks; and
  • finally, to centralize and strengthen the capabilities of government agencies to improve their ability to detect suspicious activities.

These developments highlight Singapore’s commitment to tackling money laundering and preserving the integrity of its financial system in the face of increasingly sophisticated illicit financial activities.