Singapore has beefed up its laws against money laundering by amending existing legislation to make the crime easier to detect and prosecute.
Among other things, the maximum jail term for the offence has been raised from seven to 10 years and the courts can now order an offender's property of an equivalent value to be seized if he has disposed of the money.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said criminal laws and anti-money-laundering measures must be regularly reviewed so as to deal swiftly with criminal operations.
The number of money-laundering convictions here had risen from 18 in 2010 to 39 last year, he said, before the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) (Amendment) Bill was passed yesterday.
The law, which criminalises money laundering and gives the authorities the power to seize its proceeds, was last amended in 2010.
The amendments will allow agencies here to "better prevent illicit monies from flowing through Singapore, deter associated criminal activities and facilitate cooperation with the international community", said Mr Iswaran.
The amended law makes it clear that money laundering cases involving foreign tax evasion can be prosecuted as long as they are considered crimes there and the person involved intended to evade tax.
And for money laundering involving an underlying offence committed overseas, law enforcement agencies here no longer need to get certification of that offence from foreign authorities before prosecuting the corresponding offence here.
During the debate on the Bill yesterday, Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said the Bill's importance to Singapore's continued growth as a major offshore financial centre could not be overstated.
As an international financial and investment centre, Singapore is vulnerable to cross-border money laundering and terrorist financing risks, he added.
He also called for an increase in prescribed fines, noting that money laundering may involve millions or billions of dollars.
The maximum fine stipulated in various parts of the Act remains at $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for corporations.
Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) supported the Bill, but expressed concerns about compliance costs for businesses and safeguards for the confiscation of substitute assets.
Nominated MP Tan Su Shan, a senior bank executive, said clarity is an issue over what constitutes "tax evasion".