Singapore authorities have made a significant breakthrough in their fight against money laundering and forgery offenses. They have arrested 10 foreign nationals suspected of involvement in these illicit activities, resulting in the seizure or freezing of cash, assets, and cryptocurrencies worth over S$1 billion.
This operation represents one of Singapore’s largest crackdowns on money laundering. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) conducted a raid on August 15, with the assistance of over 400 law enforcement officers from various departments. The suspects were residing in upscale locations such as condominiums and Good Class Bungalows (GCB).
The arrests were made based on information suggesting that the individuals had used fake documents to substantiate their source of funds in Singapore bank accounts. None of the 10 suspects are citizens or permanent residents of Singapore. They come from various nationalities, including Cypriot, Turkish, Cambodian, Ni-Vanuatu, and Chinese, with seven of the non-Chinese nationals possessing foreign passports issued by China. The suspects’ ages range from 31 to 44 years.
As a result of the operation, authorities have seized over 35 bank accounts, containing an estimated balance of more than $110 million. They have also confiscated S$23 million in cash, including foreign currencies. Additionally, prohibition of disposal orders has been issued for 94 properties and 50 vehicles, with an estimated value of S$815 million.
The assets seized also include over 270 pieces of jewelry, 250 luxury bags and watches, two gold bars, and 11 documents related to cryptocurrencies. The total value of cash and assets seized or frozen amounts to over S$1 billion ($736.5 million).
While investigations continue, eight individuals remain at large and are wanted by the police. The SPF has stated that 12 other individuals are cooperating with the authorities in relation to this case.
In a separate announcement, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) highlighted the importance of financial institutions’ vigilance in detecting suspicious transactions. MAS stated that local financial institutions had filed suspicious transaction reports (STRs) after noticing red flags such as dubious documentation of source of wealth, inconsistencies in information provided, and suspicious fund flows.
Singapore, with its advanced infrastructure and stable regulatory framework, aims to position itself as a vibrant crypto hub in Asia. The city-state has attracted numerous foreign businesses, and crypto firms such as Gemini, Ripple, Coinbase, Blockchain.com, and Circle have obtained regulatory licenses in Singapore. MAS recently introduced new regulations for single-currency stablecoins (SCS) pegged to the Singapore dollar or any G10 currency issued in the city-state.
The recent arrests and asset seizures demonstrate Singapore’s commitment to combating money laundering and forgery offenses. The authorities, along with financial institutions, will continue working together to strengthen their defenses against transnational ML/TF risks.