"Money mule" crimes on the rise in Singapore: Police

The number of residents in Singapore who have helped move or transfer stolen money has increased from last year, the police said.

In the first nine months of this year, the police investigated 133 cases of such transactions worth $15.5 million.

This is higher than in the whole of last year, when there were 93 similar cases involving up to $24.6 million of illegal funds.

The data was revealed on Friday at a briefing held by the Association of Banks in Singapore, the Singapore Police Force and the National Crime Prevention Council.

These transactions occur when fraudsters overseas hack into the email accounts of individuals based abroad and then send instructions to the foreign bank for money to be transferred to Singapore.

The "mule" in Singapore could be liable for an offence if he accepts the transfer of illegal money and subsequently moves the money out of his account.

Singapore is one of the target locations for crimes of this nature because of its high Internet penetration rate, the accessibility of banks, the ease of opening bank accounts and the high proficiency of English, the police said.

Data logs from emails and text messages between fraudsters and mules show that the two parties communicate in English, said Mr Ian Wong, deputy director of the Commercial Affairs Department.

Individuals who are found guilty of being a money mule can be charged under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, and face a fine of up to $500,000 and or a jail-term of up to seven years.

Non-individuals could risk a fine of up to $1,000,000.