MAS files police report over States Times Review article

FILE PHOTO: Reuters/Edgar Su

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has filed a police report against the anonymous author of an article published on 5 November on the States Times Review (STR) online blog, titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target”.

The article alleged that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore, in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in laundering 1MDB’s funds.

MAS said that the article is baseless and defamatory, and made statements that were false and malicious, and impugned the integrity of MAS as a financial regulator.

False allegations in article

Said MAS in a media statement, “The article ignores the unprecedented and robust actions taken by MAS over the last two years against Singapore-based banks and bankers in relation to their roles in 1MDB related transactions, in most instances ahead of enforcement actions by foreign jurisdictions.

“It also makes false allegations that Singapore was forced to reopen its investigations into 1MDB only after the change in political leadership in Malaysia. Investigations into 1MDB case had never been closed.”

MAS said that, at its Annual Report press conferences in 2016 and 2017, it had made clear that it would not hesitate to investigate any new leads or evidence relating to 1MDB-related fund flows. This was reiterated in a public statement jointly issued by MAS, the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Singapore Police Force on 8 June this year.

“Singapore’s law enforcement and regulatory agencies had also been cooperating actively with their counterparts in Malaysia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the United States of America during the tenure of the previous Malaysian government,” MAS said. “MAS has placed utmost importance on safeguarding its integrity as a financial regulator, and takes seriously any false allegations to the contrary.”

FILE PHOTO: Reuters/Samsul Said

States Times Review ‘welcomes’ lawsuit

STR was founded by Alex Tan, who has lived in Sydney since 2015. It used to function purportedly as a news media website, but became Tan’s personal blog last month.

Articles published by STR have been mentioned by the Singapore government and experts as examples of misinformation. Last year, the website – along with The Real Singapore and All Singapore Stuff – was highlighted by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in a parliamentary speech as websites guilty of spreading fabrications.

When Yahoo News Singapore visited the website on Friday, the 5 November article was still available and not taken down. In addition, another article, under the authorship of Tan, was posted on Thursday (8 November) titled “STR welcomes a libel lawsuit from Lee Hsien Loong”.

The article stated, “Let’s take this a step further: if Lee Hsien Loong does not sue within a week, it only further reinforce the public opinion the Prime Minister has a guilty conscience.”

“STR believes in independent and accurate reporting, and as such, if the Prime Minister could deliver a reasonable explanation to the ‘fake news’ above, I am willing to take the first flight home and turn myself in to the Singapore Police,” it added.

Similar article on The Coverage

A similar article was also carried on the website of The Coverage, which describes itself as a “social news network based in Malaysia”.  Titled “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target – Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements with Hsien Loong In Exchange for Money Laundering”, the article included a link to the Nov 5 article on the STR website.

In response to queries from the Malaysian media, Singapore’s High Commission in Malaysia said on Thursday, “The High Commission of the Republic of Singapore in Malaysia would like to categorically state that this article is fake news and clearly libellous.”

Singapore was the first country to legally act on the 1MDB saga. It has fined eight banks and convicted four people linked to the Malaysian fund since its investigations began in 2015.

In September, a Singapore court also ordered the return of some $15.3 million misappropriated from 1MDB to Malaysia.

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