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Singapore’s dirty money clean-up: US$2 billion laundering scandal prompts reforms

Experts told This Week In Asia that the strategy was an important piece of the puzzle in combating money laundering, but said the country could improve implementation, particularly in overseeing non-financial sectors such as real estate, precious stones and metals.

Wong, who is also finance minister, recognises that Singapore faces greater money-laundering and terrorism-financing risks as a global financial and business hub. “But we are determined to do what is needed to respond to these risks and safeguard Singapore’s reputation as a trusted financial centre,” he said on Wednesday.

The new asset recovery strategy includes legal provisions empowering authorities to petition courts to sell seized, rapidly depreciating goods or high-maintenance assets even before conviction, such as fine art, antiques, investment-grade wine, vessels, exotic livestock like fish and reptiles, and racehorses.

“Singapore has had a reputation for strict anti-money-laundering laws over the last few years,” said Sinyee Koh, director of Integrity Consulting, which provides anti-money-laundering consulting services. “That a case of such a nature can happen now shows that it takes more than strict anti-money-laundering laws to deter illicit financiers.”

The case does not mean Singapore’s anti-money-laundering regime is flawed, Koh said, since the banks were able to detect suspicious transaction reports and enforcement action was taken “relatively swiftly”. “But there is always room to improve,” she said.

“[Non-financial businesses] are still on a learning curve of how to properly implement anti-money-laundering controls,” Koh said. “Anti-money-laundering regulators of these sectors can exercise more oversight and outreach to help such non-financial