SINGAPORE: An ongoing probe into the alleged involvement of banks in Singapore in a multibillion-dollar Russian money laundering scam has not found any major lapses so far, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Monday (Jan 8) in a written reply to Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim.
According to Mr Tharman, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) probe into the specific allegations has not been completed.
However, it has thus far not surfaced evidence of major lapses in anti-money laundering controls at the local banks.
He added that where the banks detected suspicious activities relating to the flows in question, appropriate risk-mitigating measures had been taken.
Mr Tharman was replying as Minister-in-charge for MAS to Ms Lim, who had asked if there was any investigation by local authorities into the alleged roles of several Singapore banks in the money laundering scheme dubbed “The Russian Laundromat”.
Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) consortium, said in a Mar 20, 2017 article that US$20.8 billion (S$27.69 billion) from 19 Russian banks was laundered between 2011 and 2014, using banks in 96 countries.
Of which, US$77 million or 0.4 per cent of the allegedly laundered monies had flowed into the accounts held in banks in Singapore.
It also stated that US$927 million had been siphoned into banks in Hong Kong, US$916 million into mainland China, and US$608 million into Switzerland.
Mr Tharman said that Singapore is a global business and financial centre that sees substantial financial flows daily into and out of the country.
“To put the total US$77 million that was allegedly laundered through Singapore into perspective, the banking system saw US$357 billion of financial flows in total over the same period.”
Nevertheless, the MAS takes a serious view of any alleged money laundering through Singapore, small or large.
Mr Tharman said that Singapore is “constantly vigilant” against the threat of money laundering. Therefore, it has put in place a robust regime to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Financial institutions are required to conduct, among other things, adequate customer due diligence, he wrote in his reply. This includes rejecting suspicious customers, closely monitoring fund flows, and reporting any suspicious transactions.
“As money laundering schemes are increasingly complex and cross-border in nature, international cooperation is critical in identifying, disrupting, and deterring illicit activities,” Mr Tharman said.
“MAS and Singapore’s law enforcement agencies have been exchanging information and working with their foreign counterparts to investigate suspicious schemes,” he added.