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Singapore worked with UK authorities on fraud case involving ex-F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone: DPM Wong

Singapore worked with UK authorities on fraud case involving ex-F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone: DPM Wong

Former Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone leaves Southwark Crown Court in central London on Apr 19, 2023. (File photo: AFP/Daniel Leal)

SINGAPORE: Singapore worked closely with authorities in the United Kingdom on their investigation and prosecution of former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Wednesday (Aug 2).

Ecclestone is facing trial later this year for fraud over his alleged failure to declare to Britain's government about S$650 million (US$484 million) held in a trust in a Singapore bank account. The 92-year-old billionaire pleaded not guilty to the fraud charge in June.

Mr Wong was replying to questions filed in parliament by Workers' Party MPs Louis Chua and He Ting Ru.

Ms He asked if the government had received any requests from UK law enforcement agencies regarding the case, while Mr Chua asked if the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) was satisfied with anti-money laundering precautions that had been put in place at the bank involved.

"It is our policy, in line with international practice, not to comment on whether a foreign government has made a request for legal assistance on specific cases," said Mr Wong in his written answer.

"That said, we can confirm that the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Singapore Police Force and Attorney-General's Chambers have worked closely with UK authorities on their investigation and prosecution of Mr Ecclestone.

"In fact, Singapore proactively shared relevant information with our UK counterparts, which helped them develop their case."

Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, said that MAS conducted an inspection of the bank in 2017 to assess its controls for mitigating money laundering and terrorist financing risks. 

"During the inspection, MAS specifically reviewed the bank's handling of its relationship with Mr Ecclestone," he said.

"While MAS found that there was room for improvement in the bank's anti-money laundering processes, it did not find gaps or weaknesses that were systemic in nature.

"MAS also noted that when adverse news about Mr Ecclestone first surfaced in 2013, the bank promptly subjected the account to enhanced monitoring controls by requiring all transactions to be flagged for scrutiny and approval."

Mr Wong did not name the bank involved in the case.

The Deputy Prime Minister added that MAS will continue to work with financial institutions to ensure that Singapore's financial sector's defences against crime remain robust.

Mr Ecclestone is set to go on trial in November following a worldwide investigation by Britain's tax office into his finances.

Prosecutors alleged that he failed to declare the trust in Singapore when he was asked about any trusts abroad that he was involved in.

They said that Ecclestone claimed he had set up "only a single trust" in favour of his three daughters, and that he was "not the settler nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the UK".

Prosecutors said he acted "dishonestly" and intended to make a gain from the claims.

Ecclestone headed Formula 1 and controlled the sport for four decades from the 1970s to 2017, when he stepped down as chief executive and Liberty Media took over the racing series.

Earlier this year, the business magnate formally entered a not guilty plea to fraud between July 2013 and October 2016.

Source: CNA/AP/kg(mi)


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