Shanmugam Explains How S$1.8B Money Laundering Probe Started, Says Banks Reported Suspicious Transactions

No Connection Between Chinese Minister’s Visit & Money Laundering Probe, Says Shanmugam

In mid-August, the police abruptly released news of a massive cross-island raid targeting alleged money-laundering activities.

As the general public had no clue that there was even an investigation going on, the news surprised many.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has since explained how the probe came to be.

Source: Lianhe Zaobao via K Shanmugam Sc on Facebook

He said it all started when banks filed suspicious transaction reports, which prompted the police to investigate.

Money laundering probe took many months: Shanmugam

Mr Shanmugam revealed this during an interview with Lianhe Zaobao that was released on Sunday (10 Sep).

The offences took “quite a lot of effort” to identify, he said according to a transcript of the interview.

In fact, the police have been working on this for “many, many months”, he added.

Firstly, the financial institutions filed suspicious transaction reports.

The police then conducted investigations by looking into “various things based on different pieces of information”, including the reports as well as intelligence and “other aspects”, the minister said.

Source: Google Maps

Probe didn’t start because of foreign entity

When asked whether they sought help from China, Mr Shanmugam declined to go into details about how they carried out investigations, only saying,

You can take it that we will try and be thorough and we will try and look for information wherever we can find it, both within Singapore and outside of Singapore.

He did add, however, that the Singapore authorities didn’t start the investigations at the request of some foreign entity or external pressure.

Rather, the probe started because they “had reason to believe that these people had committed offences in Singapore”.

Absurd to suggest that China had sought assistance: Shanmugam

Further to this, it was pointed out that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Singapore on 10 Aug.

Source: Vivian Balakrishnan on Facebook

The 10 foreign nationals of Chinese origin were subsequently arrested five days later on 15 Aug.

This has led to speculation that Mr Wang had sought Singapore’s assistance to crack down on them, Zaobao said.

To that, Mr Shanmugam categorically said that that was “not true”, adding,

Any such suggestion would be absurd. There’s absolutely no connection between the Foreign Minister’s visit and these arrests.

Singapore doesn’t yield to such pressure from any country, he maintained — people have to commit illegal acts in Singapore to be arrested, not because another country asks us to arrest them.

Besides, the case involved a large number of assets and people and thus couldn’t have been investigated in just days or even weeks, he noted.

Courts will decide what to do with money laundering assets: Shanmugam

Speaking of the assets seized, their worth has now increased to about S$1.8 billion, Mr Shanmugam updated.

Zaobao wondered what would happen to these assets, including items like luxury cars.

To that, Mr Shanmugam said they’re in police custody for now, based on standard procedures.

Eventually, the courts will decide what to do with the assets, depending on who their owners are identified to be.

As for the foreign nationals, they will have to serve their sentences in Singapore if convicted.

After that, they may be deported if they have valid passports.

They may also be extradited to another country if Singapore has an extradition agreement with them. China currently doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Singapore.

How Singapore fights money laundering

On how Singapore is fighting the scourge of money laundering, Mr Shanmugam said we have a robust mechanism and framework and “will not hesitate to take action”.

However, he admitted that the effort is challenging as we’re an open economy and the third-largest important financial centre in the world after New York and London, according to the Global Financial Centre.

Thus, we inevitably will have people trying to use the system for criminal activities. He quoted former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping as saying,

When you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.

So we have to do our best, the minister said. For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has put in controls against money laundering, while banks are our first line of checks.

And once they find out some facts, we have to take action, he added, emphasising,

The fact that we have taken action when we got to know of the facts, sends a clear signal that we are a no-nonsense place. We’ll act against people who abuse our system.

Ultimately, we have to uphold our reputation as a place with trusted, sound regulation, good governance, strong rule of law.

Read the full transcript of Mr Shamugam’s interview here.

Also read: S’pore Money Laundering Raid Suspects Reportedly From ‘Fujian Gang’, Partied Lavishly & Splurged On GCBs

S’pore Money Laundering Raid Suspects Reportedly From ‘Fujian Gang’, Partied Lavishly & Splurged On GCBs

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Featured image adapted from Lianhe Zaobao via K Shanmugam Sc on Facebook and Singapore Police Force.

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