Singapore is investigating the role that some single family offices played in one of the city’s largest money laundering cases and weighing further rules on the sector.
(Bloomberg) — Singapore is investigating the role that some single family offices played in one of the city’s largest money laundering cases and weighing further rules on the sector.
Authorities found that one or more of the accused in the case involving more than S$2.8 billion ($2 billion) of assets may have been linked to single family offices that were awarded tax incentives, Minister of State Alvin Tan said in parliament on Tuesday.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore is reviewing its internal incentive administration processes, and will tighten them where necessary, Tan said. No “adverse information of note” related to the individuals and entities were detected when they applied for the incentives, he said.
Singapore has seen an influx of family offices — set up by the ultra rich to manage their affairs and investments — on the back of its growing appeal as a financial hub. The number of single family offices there rose to 1,100 by the end of last year, compared with 400 in 2020.
The MAS said in July it will boost surveillance and safeguards against laundering risks in the family office space and enhance requirements for those seeking certain tax exemptions.
Tan said the regulator will study if further measures are necessary, adding that the “vast majority” of financial transactions in Singapore are legitimate.
The money laundering scandal, which has ensnared major banks and property agents, has ballooned into one of the largest in the country and put a spotlight on potential loopholes.
Tan addressed concerns that the case has hurt the city’s international standing. “This case is clear evidence of our unflinching commitment to keep Singapore clean,” he said.
Tan also said the MAS is conducting supervisory reviews and inspections of the banks with “a major nexus” to the case, as it was concerning that financial assets made up more than S$1.45 billion of what was seized so far.
Authorities have issued orders preventing the sale of 94 residential homes connected to the case. Eight of them are bungalows in Sentosa Cove, a leisure island off Singapore’s mainland where rules largely restricting foreign ownership of landed properties are looser.
–With assistance from Faris Mokhtar, Chanyaporn Chanjaroen and Philip J. Heijmans.
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