ECONOMY | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Reported white-collar crime hits record high in Singapore

The occurence of money laundering incidents was higher in Singapore than the global average.

Has white-collar crime gotten worse in Singapore? One in three (35%) executives in Singapore reported that their organisations had suffered fraud in the last two years, up from 22% in 2016, PwC Singapore revealed.

Globally, the proportion of organisations reporting economic crime has also gone up from 36% in 2016 to 49% in 2018.

Recent international corruption incidents involving Singapore corporations have highlighted incidents using third-party intermediaries/agents to win contracts in high-risk territories. "Whilst Singapore has consistently been high on the anti-corruption ranking, bribery and corruption may occur beyond the Singapore shores," PwC said.

Also read: Former Keppel bosses arrested amidst bribery case probe

About 25% of respondents indicated that in doing business abroad they had lost an opportunity to a competitor whom they believe paid a bribe and 21% were asked to pay a bribe. These figures are significantly lower (6% and 9% respectively) when it came to their operations in Singapore.

PwC Singapore forensics leader Chan Kheng Tek noted that the sharp increase of reported economic crime in Singapore underscores the extent of the threat. "Fraudsters continue to use opportunities and control gaps created by fast-changing business environment and technological sophistication. In parallel, growing fraud risk awareness has translated into more structured fraud prevention and detection frameworks which include enhanced fraud risk monitoring techniques and detective controls relying on technology,” he added.

Despite the risk, only 50% of Singapore based companies confirmed that they perform additional anti-bribery and corruption due diligences as part of business acquisitions abroad. 

Although the occurrence of bribery and corruption in Singapore was lower than the global average, anti-money laundering related incidents were reported to be higher (20% in Singapore, 9% globally). One of the drivers behind this finding may be linked to the fact that Singapore respondents were subject to more regulatory inspections in the last 24 months, 71% vs 54% globally.

Meanwhile, 69% reported that, as a result of the inspections, they had major feedback including enforced remediation, marking a significant increase from the last survey in 2016 (53%).

On the upside, thanks to increased awareness and higher numbers of reported fraud incidences, investments to combat it have increased in tandem. In Singapore, results show that half of the organisations (51%) spent more on investigations and/or other interventions than what was lost through their most disruptive crime. This is significantly higher than the global average of 28%.

Facing the threat of fraud, organisations in Singapore are beefing up their internal controls, as corporate controls remain the top means of detecting the most disruptive economic crime (54%), going up by 4ppt from 2016. Many respondents also reported addressing fraud prevention through corporate culture initiatives through which 33% of the most disruptive frauds in Singapore based organisations were detected via tip-offs or hotlines.

The survey also shows that organisations in Singapore are planning to invest in advanced technologies at a faster rate than their global counterparts.

PwC's study examined over 7200 respondents from 123 territories, of which 118 were from Singapore.

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