The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank, is launching an investigation into the role of financial institutions in a $1.8 billion money laundering scandal. The investigation will focus on whether these banks have effectively addressed money laundering and terrorism financing risks.
Last month, Singaporean law enforcement arrested and charged ten foreign individuals, including Chinese nationals, in one of the largest anti-money laundering operations. Assets worth $1.8 billion, including luxury real estate, cryptocurrencies, and high-end automobiles, were seized as part of the investigation.
These revelations have raised concerns about the adherence of financial institutions in Singapore to the city-state’s strict anti-money laundering regulations. The MAS has initiated “supervisory engagements” with these institutions to assess the effectiveness of their controls against money laundering and terrorism financing risks.
In recent years, Singapore has experienced a significant influx of assets, with wealthy individuals from Asia and beyond establishing family and trust offices to take advantage of the incentives offered by the city. According to MAS data, the number of single-family offices responsible for managing investments, taxes, wealth transfer, and other financial matters for high-net-worth individuals has increased from 400 at the end of 2020 to 1,100 by the end of 2022.
Furthermore, the latest data from MAS shows a remarkable 16% increase in total assets under management in Singapore in 2021, reaching $5.4 trillion, compared to a global increase of 12%, totaling $112 trillion, for the same year.
The ongoing investigation by the Monetary Authority of Singapore highlights the nation’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of its financial sector and ensuring compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations.
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