SINGAPORE — The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has carried out one of its largest anti-money laundering operations, resulting in arrests of a group of foreigners who had amassed approximately S$1 billion worth of assets within the country.
Operating under suspicions of illicit activities, including the use of suspected forged documents to validate the sources of funds in Singaporean bank accounts, the police launched a large-scale operation across various regions on Tuesday.
The operation spanned multiple affluent locations including Tanglin, Bukit Timah, Orchard Road, Sentosa, and River Valley. It targeted both good-class bungalows (GCBs) and condominiums, leading to the arrest of multiple suspects.
Ten foreigners, aged 31 to 44, were charged in court on Wednesday (16 August) in relation to the investigation. The individuals are from diverse nationalities including Cypriot, Chinese, Turkish, Cambodian, and Ni-Vanuatu.
Twelve other individuals are assisting in investigations, while an additional eight are evading authorities and have been added to a wanted list.
In a media release on Wednesday, SPF said, “These persons are believed to have connections among themselves. All the persons involved are neither Singapore citizens nor permanent residents."
Millions seized in assets, cash, and valuables
The operation involved over 400 officers from various police departments, including the Criminal Investigation Department, Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), Special Operations Command and the Police Intelligence Department.
SPF said the identification of the individuals stemmed from investigations which included the analysis of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) submitted by financial institutions.
The operation uncovered alleged laundering of proceeds from organised criminal activities abroad, tied to scams and online gambling. It resulted in the issuance of prohibition of disposal orders against 94 properties and 50 vehicles, estimated to be worth over $815 million. This means that the suspects cannot sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of specific assets.
Over 35 associated bank accounts - holding an estimated balance of over $110 million - were seized to aid investigations and deter criminal proceeds' dissipation.
Other confiscated items included over $23 million in cash, over 250 luxury bags and watches, over 120 electronic devices, more than 270 pieces of jewellery, two gold bars, and 11 documents containing virtual asset information.
Among the arrested individuals was a 40-year-old Cypriot national, arrested in Bukit Timah's Ewart Park, where he resided. When police arrived at his residence and instructed him to open the door, the man reportedly leaped from the second-floor balcony instead of complying.
He was subsequently discovered injured, hiding in a drain, and was conveyed conscious to the hospital.
In addition to his arrest, the Cypriot man possessed foreign passports believed to have been issued by China and Cambodia. During the operation, police confiscated over $2.1 million in cash and other foreign currencies from him. Prohibition of disposal orders were also issued for 13 properties and five vehicles, with an estimated value of over $118 million.
Further seizures included various ornaments and bottles of liquor and wine. The police also froze four associated bank accounts containing more than $6.7 million.
Authorities join forces to counter criminal infiltration
CAD director David Chew stated that the police would work with law enforcement agencies and financial intelligence units to identify, deter and thwart attempts by criminal elements to find refuge within Singapore's borders.
"We have zero tolerance for the use of Singapore as a safe haven for criminals or their families, nor for the abuse of our banking facilities," he said "Our message to these criminals is simple - if we catch you, we will arrest you. If we find your ill-gotten gains, we will seize them. We will deal with you to the fullest extent of our laws."
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) also released a statement on Wednesday evening, disclosing its close collaboration with CAD to detect potentially tainted funds and assets within the financial system.
Red-flag indicators like suspicious fund flows, questionable documentation of wealth or funds source, and inconsistencies or evasiveness in the information provided had been picked up by the financial institutions that filed the STRs.
MAS' deputy managing director (financial supervision) Ho Hern Shin acknowledged that, as a global financial hub, Singapore remains vulnerable to transnational money-laundering risks.
"This case has highlighted that vigilance and prompt filing of STRs by our financial institutions have helped law enforcement authorities to identify those suspected of carrying out illicit activities," she said.
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