Singapore authorities have announced the seizure or freezing of assets worth more than S$2.8 billion ($2 billion) in one of the city-state’s largest money laundering investigations. Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo disclosed the amount to parliament, which is higher than the previously announced S$2.4 billion. The investigation is ongoing, with authorities conducting interviews with both Singaporean and foreign individuals.
In response to the case, Singapore is considering tightening its immigration verification checks to prevent illicit inflows. Teo, who also heads the Ministry for Communications and Information, emphasized that no screening process is fool-proof but stated that Singapore takes money laundering seriously and will not turn a blind eye to any risks.
The recent seizure of assets and arrests of 10 foreigners, all originally from China, have raised questions about Singapore’s reputation for clean governance and zero tolerance for crime. The individuals are accused of forgery and laundering proceeds from scams and illegal online gambling. Singapore is collaborating with international counterparts, and local regulators will take action against those found to have fallen short.
The case has drawn attention to fund flows from abroad and whether Singapore’s $2 trillion financial sector has done enough to block dubious transactions. The country has seen an influx of affluent Asians, including those from China, seeking safe investments amid mainland crackdowns and pandemic restrictions.
Teo acknowledged that most applicants are not involved in illegal activities and cautioned against unnecessarily penalizing innocent individuals with overly tight rules. She also highlighted that from 2020 to 2022, at least 240 individuals were convicted of money laundering offenses, with assets worth over S$1.2 billion seized by the police.
Singapore, known as the world’s third-largest offshore financial hub after Switzerland and Hong Kong, saw cross-border wealth inflows totaling $1.5 trillion last year. The authorities have recently seized bank accounts, cryptocurrencies, properties, and vehicles in connection with the investigation.
Banks in Singapore are increasing scrutiny of Chinese-born clients with other citizenships, and some have been reviewing new account openings and transactions with clients of Chinese origin carrying investment-linked passports.