Committee of Supply debate: Prime Minister's Office

'Robust regime' against money laundering

As an international financial centre, Singapore has an important part to play in weeding out money laundering activities, including those related to corruption, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

To this end, the country's law enforcement agencies will contact their foreign counterparts to start investigations whenever there is reason to suspect illicit funds have flowed through Singapore.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has also put in place a "robust" regime that combines tough licensing requirements, strict regulations and rigorous supervision, Mr Chan added at the debate on the PMO's budget.

It requires that financial institutions implement systems to detect and deter the flow of illicit funds in and out of Singapore, and report suspicious transactions.

Mr Chan was responding to Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), who asked if measures against money laundering have been effective.

She said 40 banks operating here are being investigated by the MAS for possible money laundering offences linked to troubled Malaysian state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Citing foreign media reports that accused Singapore of "asking no questions or turning a blind eye to sources of funds being managed from here", Ms Lim called into question Singapore's commitment towards eradicating corruption.

She said it has been suggested that Singapore has "a certain double standard - intolerance towards corruption within Singapore but permissiveness towards corruption committed abroad".

Mr Chan declined to comment on 1MDB, citing ongoing investigations.

But he said the Prevention of Corruption Act provides for Singaporeans to be taken to task, even if they had committed corruption abroad.

He added that Singapore's financial intelligence unit, the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office, has provided information to other countries that has led to corrupt persons being prosecuted.

Yesterday, Ms Lim also asked if the Government was concerned "that Singapore's anti-corruption reputation has thus been eroded".

To this, Mr Chan said the best test of Singapore's reputation "lies in whether people will put their trust in us, do business with us, and place their money here".

"It is in our collective interest to make sure that we not only maintain our reputation, but continuously strengthen that trust for people to put their assets and intellectual property with us," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline ''Robust regime' against money laundering'. Print Edition | Subscribe