Singapore says money laundering inflow soars to S$2.5 billion

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Singapore says money laundering inflow soars to S$2.5 billion

In one of the city's largest money laundering scandal, a senior official said the government could tighten immigration rules to curb illegal inflows.

The figure, which was disclosed to parliament by the Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo, is higher than the S$2.4 billion previously announced.

The investigation is ongoing and authorities continue to interview Singaporeans and foreigners, she said. Teo, who also heads the ministry for communication and information, said: The city-state will review how to tighten its immigration verification checks, though no screening process is fool-proof.

That has been called into question after the government seized assets and arrested 10 foreigners - all originally from China - for alleged forgery and laundering proceeds from scams and illegal online gambling.

The island nation is working with international counterparts and local regulators will take action against those who have fallen short, she said.

The case, which became public in mid-August, is shining a light on fund flows from abroad and whether the $2 trillion financial sector driving the city-state's economy has done enough to block dubious transactions. During the pandemic outbreak, Singapore has seen a surge of affluent Asians, including those from China, seeking safe investments.

Lawmakers had previously submitted dozens of questions to be answered by the government, including the need to tighten existing money-laundering rules, enhance immigration controls, and prevent cross-border crimes and immigration checks.

Teo said he had no idea what he was talking about, and that he had no idea what he was talking about. At least 240 individuals were convicted of money laundering activities from 2020 to 2022, with the police seizing more than S$1.2 billion worth of assets.

The combined inflow of cross-border wealth into Singapore totaled $1.5 trillion last year, according to an estimate by Boston Consulting Group. The country's second largest offshore financial hub is Switzerland and Hong Kong, where wealthy individuals park their assets.

The government said in a statement that last month additional operations saw the seizure of bank accounts with a value of more than S$1.13 billion and cryptocurrencies of more than S$38 million. The police have also issued warnings to prevent the sale of more than 110 properties and 62 vehicles totaling more than S$1.24 billion.

Banks in the wealthy island nation are increasing scrutiny of some Chinese-born clients with other citizenships.

Some lenders have been evaluating new account openings and transactions with clients of Chinese origin carrying investment-linked passports, Bloomberg reported. At least one international bank is closing some accounts of clients with citizenship from countries such as Cambodia, Cyprus, Turkey and Vanuatu.