Singapore to Prioritize Clamp Down on Money Laundering

Singapore’s financial regulator is prioritizing its crack down on disclosure breaches, the misselling of financial products and anti-money laundering this year and next as the city state looks to cement its status as a regional financial hub.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore will focus on financial institutions which lack rigorous systems and processes for combating money laundering and countering terrorism financing and will seek to better detect and take action against misconduct, the MAS said in a report published Wednesday. It will also enhance its focus on senior management accountability for breaches, it said.

The regulator imposed S$11.7 million ($8.6 million) in civil penalties, and S$3.3 million for money laundering-related control breaches in the 18 months to June, according to the report that covers the period. It convicted nine people for market misconduct or related offenses and issued 25 prohibition orders against unfit representatives, it said.

“Investigations and enforcement against financial misconduct will only become more challenging, as technology rapidly evolves, financial products grow in complexity and cases become increasingly multi-jurisdictional in nature,” said Peggy Pao, the MAS’s executive director of enforcement. “A robust enforcement regime will be critical in sustaining Singapore’s reputation as a trusted financial center.”

The coronavirus pandemic also “poses various operational and market risks,” Pao said, and the MAS will increasingly use technology in its probes to improve effectiveness and efficiency.

Wirecard, 1MDB

Singapore is consolidating its position as a global financial hub for wealth management and digital services, but the island state has recently faced a number of high-profile financial cases. Authorities have launched investigations into companies such as disgraced German payments business Wirecard AG’s operations in the city. The local unit of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last month agreed to pay $122 million to the Singapore government for its role in Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal.

Read MAS’s previous Enforcement Report

The regulator in November 2019 imposed a S$11.2 million fine on UBS Group AG for deceptive trades by its client advisers, it said. It also fined Asiaciti Trust Singapore Pte S$1.1 million in July for “serious breaches” of MAS requirements on anti-money laundering and countering financial terrorism.

Other highlights from the report:

  • Almost all of the S$3.4 million in financial penalties were for breaches of controls in illicit funds
  • There were 25 prohibition orders and three license revocations during the period
  • The average time taken to complete reviews and investigations fell to 24 months from 33 months for criminal cases; 26 months from 30 months for civil cases

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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