Singapore’s image under scrutiny amid scandal

 Singapore’s image as a squeaky-clean business hub is under scrutiny amid a huge money laundering scandal that has so far resulted in 10 arrests and the seizure of assets worth 1.8 billion Singaporean dollars (US$1,3 billion).

Singapore police last month arrested 10 foreign nationals – aged between 31 and 44 – and raided residences, seizing luxury items including Hermes handbags, Patek Philippe watches, aged Macallan whisky, and Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars.

The suspects are all originally from Fujian in eastern China but include Cypriot, Turkish, Cambodian and Vanuatuan passport holders.

The Singapore Police Force has alleged the seized assets are the ill-gotten gains of organised crime committed overseas, including scams and online gambling, whose proceeds were brought into Singapore and filtered through the country’s financial institutions.

The case has cast a spotlight on Singapore’s reputation as a well-run, low-crime financial hub, or a “Switzerland of the East”.

It is also unwelcome news for Singapore’s ruling party, which has been rocked by a string of rare political scandals in the past few months, including a corruption probe involving the transport minister.

For would-be money launderers, the Southeast Asian city-state can be an attractive option due to its status as a major financial hub that offers an array of financial instruments, according to analysts.

“The large volumes of financial transactions that flow through our borders can make it harder for regulators to sift out illicit transactions,” Woo Jun Jie, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS), told Al Jazeera.

Money laundering can be conducted through various channels, from real estate and cryptocurrency to casinos and listed companies. -Aljazeera

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