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Gov’t eyes tighter measures vs. money laundering

A possible amendment to the law includes giving regulators access to suspicious transaction reports.

The government is planning to amend the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 to further empower authorities in going after money launderers. 

According to Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam, the government also eyes allowing sectoral regulators to access suspicious transaction reports filed by entities, under their jurisdiction to better detect money laundering activities.

This was his reply to a parliamentary question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai. The latter asked whether sentences under the law have been enough to address money laundering, and whether the government is open to strengthening the law if otherwise. 

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Recently, two men convicted in relation to the $3b money laundering case in Singapore were deported to Cambodia. They were amongst the 10 foreigners arrested amid a probe in August 2023.

Shanmugam said that money laundering cases are difficult to uncover anywhere.

“There are not many cases as big as the $3 billion money laundering case, which was the result of extensive intelligence probes, and painstaking piecing together of disparate types of information,” he noted.

“This is not because there are no such monies being laundered in other jurisdictions. Rather, criminals hide their tracks very carefully. We know this from our foreign law enforcement counterparts as well,” he added.

The current law states a fine ranging from $150,000 to $500,000, and jail terms ranging from 3 years to 10 years, or both, depending on the nature of the offences. 

Shanmugam said this is similar to the penalties for other serious offences, like cheating and forgery. It is also comparable with the sentencing regimes in other jurisdictions such as Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany and France, he added. 

The court will determine the appropriate penalties based on various factors, including the amount of money laundered, the length of the offending conduct, and the culpability of the accused.

Shanmugam noted that the measure has been updated in 2018 and 2023. The first amendment strengthened penalties against legal persons and failure to file a suspicious transaction, and the second enabled the police to take firmer enforcement action against money mules.

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