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LATEST: How STRs from Singapore’s banks unearthed the $2BN money laundering scandal in the financial hub

SUSPENSION: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) today issued a Notice directing licensed payment service providers providing cross-border money transfer services (remittance companies) to suspend for the next three months the use of non-bank and non-card channels when transmitting money to persons in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Our image shows a view of the Monetary Authority of Singapore headquarters.

By AML Intelligence Correspondent

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) plans to conduct an on-site inspection of a local unit of Credit Suisse to determine whether it properly handled the monitoring of wealthy clients.

It comes after at least one of Credit Suisse’s customers was charged with money laundering.

It has now also emerged that Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) from the financial hub’s banks first red-flagged the scandal.

The case first emerged in 2021 when the banks and companies filed STRs, communications minister Josephine Teo revealed to parliament. The MAS has confirmed that it was STRs which first alerted authorities to the suspicious activities attempted through the country’s financial system.

Officials from Singapore’s financial regulator will review documents and interview personnel from Credit Suisse and other banks within weeks, Bloomberg reported today (Wednesday), citing people familiar with the situation.

The MAS and Credit Suisse did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Singapore police in August arrested 10 foreigners as the Asian financial hub investigates one of its biggest cases of suspected money laundering, with assets worth S$2.8 billion ($2 billion) seized.

The inspection is outside of MAS’s regular engagements with banks, and signals potential issues with the lenders’ sizable exposure to the suspects and overall handling of client vetting, the people said.

One of the suspects, Vang Shuiming, had some S$92M at the Swiss lender, the biggest known account so far in the case. Vang also had bank accounts with others including Bank Julius Baer where he had S$33M as well as United Overseas Bank Ltd. and RHB Bank Bhd.’s local unit, police said. Vang’s other charges include forgery of a bank document to trick Citibank Singapore Ltd.

“The planned inspection underscores the seriousness of the scandal that has ensnared at least 10 domestic and international banks in the Asian financial hub,” Bloomberg said.

More than S$2.8 billion ($2 billion) of assets from cash to jewellery have been seized from a group of alleged money launderers with Chinese origin.

Investigators are probing how one or more of the accused may have been linked to single family offices with incentives, and will tighten the rules where necessary.

In parliament earlier this month Minister of State Alvin Tan said the regulator is conducting supervisory reviews and inspections of the banks with “a major nexus” to the case.

Tan also said it was concerning that financial assets made up the vast bulk of what was seized so far.

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