Panama Papers: Regulators studying Singapore-linked data

The building where Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are in Panama City.
The building where Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are in Panama City. PHOTO: AFP

Regulators here said yesterday that they are looking into the latest leaks to come out of the Panama Papers, and will take action if any Singaporean named in the cache is found guilty of wrongdoing.

The joint statement from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) came after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) unveiled data on some 200,000 offshore entities set up by wealthy individuals around the world.

The ICIJ put up the data onto a searchable online database early yesterday morning. The data, which comes from nearly 40 years of archives of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that specialises in creating and running offshore entities, includes records on thousands of Singapore-linked entities.

 

"We are reviewing the batch of information that was released this morning on the persons and entities identified in the Panama Papers," the MOF and MAS said. "If there is evidence of wrongdoing by any individual or entity in Singapore, we will not hesitate to take firm supervisory and enforcement action."

The Panama Papers have been making headlines globally as the hidden riches of top politicians in countries such as Iceland and the Ukraine came to light.

However, the ICIJ itself made it clear that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts.

"We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the... database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly."

The Singapore-linked names in the Panama Papers include OCBC Trustee Limited, a subsidiary of Bank of Singapore.

OCBC Bank's head of corporate communications, Ms Koh Ching Ching, stressed that Bank of Singapore "exercises stringent screening controls to ensure compliance with both internal and regulatory requirements, including anti-money laundering and tax evasion laws" before taking on clients.

The leaks also name DBS Bank, whose spokesman said: "With regard to offshore or trust structures, the law obliges us to take steps to identify ultimate beneficial owners and we do not support the use of concealment techniques."

Another name thrown up by the fresh leaks is that of Boustead chief executive Wong Fong Fui.

Boustead's vice-president of corporate marketing and investor relations, Mr Keith Chu, said Mr Wong was the director of two offshore companies that the firm set up years ago. "Both companies are dormant and were formed to hold foreign investments for legitimate business and tax planning purposes, as advised by reputable professional firms."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'Panama Papers: Regulators studying S'pore-linked data'. Print Edition | Subscribe