MAS enforcement led to one conviction, over $17m in penalties from mid-2017 to end-2018

 MAS also issued 19 prohibition orders that bar individuals from working in the financial industry, 37 reprimands and 223 warnings, it said at the launch of its first enforcement report on March 20, 2019.
MAS also issued 19 prohibition orders that bar individuals from working in the financial industry, 37 reprimands and 223 warnings, it said at the launch of its first enforcement report on March 20, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - One criminal conviction, $16.8 million in financial penalties and nearly $700,000 in civil fines were meted out to white-collar criminals from mid-2017 to end-2018 by enforcers of Singapore's central bank, according to new data released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

MAS also issued 19 prohibition orders that bar individuals from working in the financial industry, 37 reprimands and 223 warnings, it said at the launch of its first enforcement report on Wednesday (March 20).

MAS' sole prosecution case last year was of Mok Piak Liang, who was found guilty of false trading and jailed for 16 weeks in January 2018.

The results are the work of the Enforcement Department, a dedicated branch of investigators within the central bank which was established in 2016 to combat breaches of MAS rules.

The report, to be released every 18 months, is part of the authority's priority to raise its accountability and the transparency of its enforcement actions, MAS said in a statement.

Giving an inside look at the department's actions, the report delves into the range of financial misconduct that took place within the banking, insurance, capital markets and other MAS-regulated sectors in Singapore.

The financial penalties mostly exclude the $30 million in fines slapped on banks here under MAS' probe into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal as the bulk was applied before July 2017.

Also excluded was the conviction of Dennis Tey in early 2017; he was jailed 16 weeks for defrauding contract providers. This was the department's first successful conviction that arose from a joint investigation arrangement with the Police's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) that started in 2015.

Ms Gillian Tan, executive director of the department, said that the risks of misconduct have risen with the growth in size and complexity of the financial industry in Singapore.

"Enforcement plays a critical role in financial supervision through the detection, investigation and punishment of serious misconduct," said Ms Tan.

 
 
 
 

Her department took an average of eight months to investigate cases, and 33 months to criminally prosecute financial wrongdoers, which is faster than the average time taken by regulatory bodies in other countries.

To this end, her department tapped data analytic technologies to investigate cases.

For example, it developed Project Apollo, an augmented intelligence tool which codifies the thinking of human investigators in determining the likelihood of misconduct in the securities market. The tool boasts an accuracy rate of 98 per cent, based on its tests on concluded investigations. It is currently being used in actual cases.

This allows MAS to prioritise its investigative resources, reducing the time needed to review each investigation lead from several days to mere hours.

Project Apollo was built in-house by MAS last year, and is believed to be the first such tool in the world to be used to investigate capital market infringements.

Cases led by the CAD under the joint arrangement netted 20 criminal convictions in 13 cases from mid-2017 to end-2018, a police spokesman told The Straits Times.

Sentences imposed on the individuals ranged from fines of between $20,000 and $600,000 to imprisonment ranging from one to five months.