(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers will discuss one of Singapore’s largest-ever money-laundering cases in parliament as the government comes under pressure to tighten rules and crack down further on cross-border organized crime.
Singapore has long capitalized on its reputation for clean governance and zero tolerance for crime to attract foreign investments and the well-to-do. That has been called into question after the authorities seized more than S$2.4 billion ($1.8 billion) in assets and arrested ten foreigners — all originally from China — for alleged forgery and laundering proceeds from scams and illegal online gambling.
Lawmakers submitted dozens of questions to be answered by the government, including the need to tighten existing money-laundering rules, further steps to prevent cross-border crimes and immigration checks. There will be statements from the Home Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Finance and National Development ministries.
The case, which erupted into the public view 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. Singapore has seen an influx of affluent Asians, including those from China, seeking safe investments amid crackdowns in the mainland and pandemic restrictions.
Cross-border wealth inflows into Singapore totaled $1.5 trillion last year, according to an estimate by Boston Consulting Group. This makes the country the world’s third largest financial hub after Switzerland and Hong Kong where the wealthy park their assets.
Piyush Gupta, the CEO of Singapore’s largest bank DBS Group Holdings Ltd, last week compared the process of identifying illicit transactions to looking for a needle in a haystack, even with the use of technology.
The authorities said last month additional operations saw the seizure of bank accounts with a value of more than S$1.13 billion and cryptocurrencies of over S$38 million. The police have also issued orders to prevent the sale of more than 110 properties and 62 vehicles totaling over 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 reviewing 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 including Cambodia, Cyprus, Turkey and Vanuatu.
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