Billion-Dollar Money Laundering Case Not At Behest Of China, Says Josephine Teo
Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo dismissed speculation that the police operation into the billion-dollar money laundering case was at the behest of China, calling such claims “completely untrue”.
She said during a ministerial statement about the case that the amount police seized has increased to more than S$2.8 billion.
According to her, police began a coordinated probe last year after first learning of suspicious activities in 2021.
We have summarised three key points from her speech.
1. Police operations began last year after tipoffs
On Tuesday (3 Oct), Mrs Teo said that police were tipped off to “various suspicious activities” and launched a probe early last year.
To avoid alerting suspects, only a very small group of officers conducted the work.
“Had the suspects caught wind of our probes, the suspects and their assets might have fled, and the investigations and the entire operation might have been jeopardised,” she noted.
So far, police have arrested 10 foreigners on 15 Aug and revealed the names of 24 more suspects. Many other unnamed individuals are assisting in investigations.
“Intelligence gathering and planning for such a major operation can take months or years,” Mrs Teo said in Parliament in response to MP questions regarding red flags before the arrests.
“Police analysed the information and probed further, quietly…A decision was made to hold off any enforcement or overt investigative actions,” she noted.
Anti-money laundering probes are not just complex but also have to be discreet. She said that connecting the dots between people and things is much easier said than done.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers determined after a consultation that there were grounds to suspect that criminal offences had been committed in Singapore.
This led to the simultaneous raids on 15 Aug, which took place at:
- Sentosa Cove
- River Valley
Over 400 police officers from various divisions joined the operations.
2. Authorities have seized over S$2.8 billion in assets so far
According to Mrs Teo, the value of the assets that the authorities seized so far has exceeded S$2.8 billion. This makes it one of the largest anti-money laundering operations in the world.
The assets include:
- Prohibition of disposal orders issued against 152 properties and 62 vehicles worth over S$1.24 billion
- More than 1,000 bottles of liquor and wine
- Over S$1.45 billion seized from bank accounts
- Over S$76 million in cash, including foreign currencies
- More than S$38 million in cryptocurrencies
- 68 gold bars
- 294 luxury bags
- 164 luxury watches
- 546 pieces of jewellery
3. Speculation of pressure from China untrue
In response to speculation that Singapore authorities had made the arrests under pressure from China, Mrs Teo maintained that, “Singapore does not need another country to tell us what to do to enforce our laws, nor will we do anything unless it is in our own interests.”
All 10 suspects are of Chinese origin but hold several different passports and nationalities, including from Cyprus and Cambodia.
Some media reports claimed that pressure from China had led to the arrests.
“In this case, we started investigations because we suspected that offences had been committed in Singapore,” she added. “Once we confirmed our suspicions, we acted.”
Mrs Teo also declared, “We will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against people who would use Singapore as a haven to launder proceeds of crime.”
“We will deal with them and their ill-gotten gains to the fullest extent of our laws.”
Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at email@example.com.
Drop us your email so you won't miss the latest news.