S'pore branch of Swiss bank fined $1m for lapses in money laundering, terror financing curbs: MAS

The Singapore branch of Bank J. Safra Sarasin has been ordered to appoint an independent party to validate the effectiveness of its measures.
The Singapore branch of Bank J. Safra Sarasin has been ordered to appoint an independent party to validate the effectiveness of its measures.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Singapore branch of a Swiss-based private bank has been fined $1 million for failing to comply with measures to counter money-laundering and terrorist financing.

The penalty was imposed on Bank J. Safra Sarasin (BJS) for breaches between March 2014 and September 2018.

These included failing to establish the source of its customers' funds by appropriate and reasonable means.

In many cases, BJS relied on customers' representations without corroboration.

It also failed to adequately inquire into unusually large or abnormal patterns of customer transactions that had no obvious economic purpose.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Wednesday (April 14) that the lapses arose during the process of signing on customers and in the monitoring of their business relations, which put BJS at higher risk of being used as a conduit for illicit activities.

BJS has been ordered to appoint an independent party to validate the effectiveness of its measures and report the findings to the MAS.

The regulator noted the penalty amount took into consideration BJS' actions to address deficiencies that it identified.

Breaches of measures to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing carry a maximum fine of $1 million for each offence.

The MAS's assistant managing director of policy, payments and financial crime, Ms Loo Siew Yee, said: "Financial institutions engaging in private banking business must be vigilant in guarding against the risk of dealing with illicit wealth.

"Given the potential complexity of private bank clients' profiles, it is particularly important that clients' representations regarding their source of wealth and funds are scrutinised and corroborated by objective evidence."