Why It Matters

Firm stance on financial crime

Singapore's reputation as a financial hub remains intact, with its clear display of zero tolerance when handling matters related to money laundering and terrorism financing.

When news broke of an investigation over a US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion) transfer between the Guernsey and Singapore offices of Standard Chartered Bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) stressed last Monday night that it was taking a serious view of the issue.

The private bank client assets were held in the bank's Guernsey trust unit for mainly Indonesian customers and moved in late 2015.

This was before the English Channel isle of Guernsey adopted the Common Reporting Standard at the start of last year.

StanChart closed operations on the island last year.

MAS has taken firm action against institutions before, such as imposing financial penalties and "prohibition orders on culpable individuals where there are serious lapses", it noted.

The regulator's policies on countering money laundering and terrorism financing were deemed to be robust by global watchdog Financial Action Task Force in its 2016 assessment.

All these are clear signs that Singapore is keeping a close watch on any activity that could potentially threaten the financial system.

CIMB Private Bank economist Song Seng Wun told The Straits Times: "For Singapore, it is always about maintaining the law. If the law of the land is broken by anyone in any shape or form, and they are caught, there will be penalties for that."

 

He said given such huge volumes of financial transaction through Singapore, "inevitably there will be some who will try to take advantage of the volume to sneak in".

To be sure, there is no imputation of any wrongdoing by StanChart.

But this incident is a reminder to financial institutions to be extra careful from the moment anyone opens an account.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Firm stance on financial crime'. Print Edition | Subscribe