S'pore to tackle money laundering with data analytics

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean delivering his keynote address at the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants Financial Forensic Conference yesterday. He said the authorities will work with the private sector to target individuals involved i
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean delivering his keynote address at the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants Financial Forensic Conference yesterday. He said the authorities will work with the private sector to target individuals involved in terrorism financing.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Singapore will increasingly use technology and data analytics to tackle cross-border crime and money laundering, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, added that the authorities will also work with the private sector to target individuals involved in terrorism financing.

His remarks came at the launch of a postgraduate programme on financial forensics by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

It is the first qualification focused on forensic accountancy offered by a professional body in South-east Asia, said the institute.

It aims to train finance graduates to be financial forensic professionals. Graduates in other disciplines who are working in this field can also apply for the programme, which comprises four modules to be completed in a year. Applications open on March 1 next year.

Mr Teo said financial professions can help protect businesses against money laundering and terrorism financing.

"Ultimately, any system of laws, rules and regulations comes down to people - people with integrity who are alert, understand the threats and risks, and are proactive in dealing with them," he noted.

Speaking at the event, Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) director David Chew said accountants are in a "prime position to flag suspicious activities" as they examine financial transactions and can recommend internal controls to detect and deter crime.

The CAD has seen the magnitude and complexity of fraud increase while criminals can move money across various jurisdictions, making it challenging to share information and take enforcement action.

But when it comes to money laundering, criminals will keep looking for new ways to mask the beneficial owners and illicit source of their funds.

Mr Teo said that with technology being exploited to commit crimes, the authorities "will increasingly have to use technology and data analytics" to counter such activity while strengthening regulations and collaborating more closely with officials overseas.

He also noted that in May, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the CAD launched an initiative that brings industry players together with government agencies to better combat money laundering and terrorism financing .

The issue of the evolving nature of such crime was echoed by Mr Tan Ken Hwee, chief prosecutor in the Attorney-General's Chambers' Financial and Technology Crime Division.

"We should use software more extensively," he said.

"This will help in sifting through large amounts of data, identifying patterns that go beyond mere keyword searches."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore to tackle money laundering with data analytics'. Print Edition | Subscribe