Singapore Raise Penalty to 10 Year Imprisonment for Money Laundering

During one of my previous posts on being money mule to carry out money laundering activities, the Singapore’s Government has once again came with amendments in the law to increase punishment for those involved in money laundering. Some changes are also been made to quicken the process to determine the offence committed by individual(s) as well.

As an effort to break down syndicates and individuals on transnational money laundering activities, Singapore’s Parliament has passed down amendment to the law on 7th July 2014, allowing the Government to deal more quickly with criminal operations and deprive offenders of their illicit gains.

One of the changes will be to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act which maximum penalty for money laundering has been increased to 10 years imprisonment from the previous 7 years and reducing the threshold by a third for cross-border cash reporting.

In addition, amendments were also made that enforcement agencies could accept evidence, such as court judgement and statements by experts even if offences escalated from a foreign country. The amendments will smoothen the process of investigation and prosecute foreign predicate offences.

Precious Stones and Metal Dealers Sector Added to the Act

Another changes to the Act is inclusion of precious stones and metal dealers, such that dealers are required to verify a customer’s identity and file a report with Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office for cash sales exceeding S$ 20,000. Transaction records shall be kept for five years from the date of filing.

Furthermore, the dual criminality requirement for foreign tax evasion offences will also be removed, as long as the offence is criminalised in the foreign jurisdiction and is committed “wilfully” with the intent to evade tax.

Property and Jewellery Susceptible to Money Laundering Activities.

Few Members of Parliament (MPs) has rose their support for the amendments and raised that there was also a need to monitor non-finance sector such as high-end property and jewellery markets, which are just as susceptible to money laundering activities. It is also questionable out how virtual currency, such as bitcoin could be monitored as well.

Amidst of all these changes, the MPs are also concerned about the monetary and administrative costs of compliance.

Source: Maximum jail term for money laundering raised to 10 years. Today Online, 8th July 2014.

Being a Money Mule In Singapore Command Heavy Penalty

Money mules are believed to have responded to online advertisement offering them jobs to transfer money using their own bank accounts, sending monies for a non-existent overseas company operated by the scam syndicate and getting a percentage of commission. In most cases, a fraudster befriends a potential money mule online, establishes a relationship and convinces him or her to accept funds through their bank account from an unknown source, and either transfer it to another account or withdraw it to hand to another person unknown to the mule.

The offence of Money Laundering carries a punishment of a fine not exceeding $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to both. Non-individual could risk a fine of up to $1,000,000.

The money mules then provided their bank account details to the scam syndicate. The amount of money, typically ranges between S$50,000 to S$200,000 is quickly withdrawn or transferred out of the mule’s account. For every inflow of funds to the money mule’s account, a transaction fee and commission from the principal amount will be deducted before the remaining amount is transferred to an overseas bank account provided by the scam syndicate.

Some syndicates are even more sophisticated, setting up “companies” and inviting unwitting mules to take on the role of a “Singapore representative” or “Singapore-based agent”, whose sole job is to open a new personal bank account and receive funds from similarly-unknown sources.

There has been a rise in such cases in Singapore, from 93 cases reported in 2012 and 133 cases reported in first three quarter of 2013.

Source: Photo by Jornale.