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Foreign pressure not behind money laundering arrests and CPIB probe involving Iswaran: Law Ministry

Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam was issued his third POFMA order in just over a month over online posts claiming foreign parties were behind the recent money laundering arrests and the CPIB probe into Minister S Iswaran.

Foreign pressure not behind money laundering arrests and CPIB probe involving Iswaran: Law Ministry

File photo: Singapore's Ministry of Law. (Photo: Ministry of Law website)

SINGAPORE: Foreign pressure was not behind the arrests of 10 foreign nationals for forgery and money laundering offences, and the corruption probe against Transport Minister S Iswaran, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said on Tuesday (Aug 22).

On the arrests, the ministry said the police identified the suspects “through intelligence probes and extensive investigations including the analysis of suspicious transaction reports”.

Ten foreign nationals were charged in court on Aug 16 in one of Singapore’s largest money laundering probes. About S$1 billion (US$736 million) in assets, including properties, vehicles, luxury goods and gold bars, have also been seized or frozen.

“These operations and the planning of the arrests had been in the works over many months,” MinLaw said “They were not at the behest or because of any foreign party.”

It added no foreign parties had been informed of the cases before the arrests.

MinLaw also denied that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (CPIB) probe into Mr Iswaran was a result of foreign pressure.

“CPIB was investigating a separate matter, and came across some information concerning Minister Iswaran,” it said. “It then looked into the matter.”

It added that the facts were “stated publicly on multiple occasions”, including statements by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Aug 2.

Mr Iswaran was arrested in July and subsequently released on bail. He has also been interdicted from duty with a reduced pay of S$8,500 a month until further notice, Mr Lee said in his ministerial statement.

The clarifications were made by MinLaw in response to posts by Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mr Jeyaretnam claimed that the arrests of the 10 foreign nationals were a result of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and China’s pressure on Singapore. He also claimed the probe into Mr Iswaran and property tycoon Mr Ong Beng Seng was a result of foreign pressure.

Additionally, the opposition politician claimed in a Facebook post that the rental rates paid by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs minister Vivian Balakrishnan for the Ridout Road properties are "locked in over nine years”. 

This is an untrue statement, said MinLaw, adding that the tenancies are renewable every two or three years and the rentals are likewise to be reviewed, based on prevailing market value.

“When the tenancies of the two properties were up for renewal after the initial three years, a revaluation was carried out by professional valuers to peg the rentals to the prevailing market rate,” it said. “This valuation was based on market comparables.”

MinLaw added that the property at 26 Ridout Road was renewed in June 2021, for three years with the rent maintained at S$26,500 a month, while 31 Ridout Road was renewed in October 2022, with the rent increased by $1,000 to S$20,000 a month. 

The ministry reiterated these figures were laid out in the various publicly available materials, including CPIB's report and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean's review report in June.

Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a correction direction to Mr Jeyaretnam - his third time in just over a month. 

He was also issued correction directions on Jul 16 and Aug 2 over comments he made about the rental of the Ridout Road properties. 

Mr Jeyaretnam will be required to carry a correction notice on his Facebook and X pages, stating that the posts contain false statements of fact, and include a link to the government’s clarification.

Source: CNA/ga(sn)


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