FinCEN leak: Billions of dollars in questionable transactions moved through Singapore


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Unpacking the defence in SMU’s assault case
Singapore—The FinCEN Files investigation was published on September 20 (Sunday) based on “suspicious activity reports” showing that criminals moved around two trillion dollars (US) in ‘dirty money’ all over the world in some of the largest banks, including Singapore.
The FinCEN files include over 2,500 documents, mostly sent from banks to US authorities between 2000 and 2017, connected to financial crime, money laundering and illicit deals. These were leaked to BuzzFeed News, which published a number of reports on September 20.
In Singapore, between 2000 and 2017, almost S$4.1 billion in 1,781 suspicious transactions was brought into the country, with around half of this amount moved back out.
According to the straitstimes.com (ST), among the banks in Singapore that handled these questionable transactions are DBS Bank, CIMB Bank and Deutsche Bank.
These transactions, however, do not automatically mean that wrongdoing has been committed by the banks and financial institutions.
DBS appears in 461 of these transactions, with CIMB in at least 294 transactions. According to Coconuts Singapore, OCBC and UOB are also included on the list of banks among the FinCEN files. And while Coconuts Singapore reached out to OCBC and UOB for a comment, the banks have yet to respond.
The reports say that between 2000 and 2017, DBS sent over S$800 million (US$596.8 million) and received over S$311 million (US$228.3 million) in suspicious transactions, while CIMB Bank sent almost S$342 million (US$250.4 million) and received almost S$47 million (US$34.3 million).
Deutsche Bank in Singapore, meanwhile, sent over S$306 million (US$224.3 million) and received almost S$85 million (US$62 million) in 19 suspicious transactions.
Deutsche Bank is one of the five international banks to appear most often in the list of transactions in the FinCEN files. The other four are HSBC Bank, JPMorgan, Standard Chartered and Bank of New York Mellon.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has said it knows that banks in Singapore were part of the news reports concerning the FinCEN leak, and told ST it takes these reports very seriously.
A spokesman for MAS added that the country’s framework to fight against money laundering meets the Financial Action Task Force’s global standards.
She is quoted by ST as saying, “MAS is closely studying the information in these media reports, and will take appropriate action based on the outcome of our review.”
And while these questionable transactions are not considered as criminal in and of themselves, they are reported by banks and financial institution in order for regulating bodies to check up on them.
Mr Lawrence Loh, an Associate Professor at National University of Singapore Business School told ST that the reports concerning the FinCEN files has concentrated more on how the funds were moved instead of where they have been used.
“In fact, there may be a wide spectrum of possibilities for the applications, including those relating to corruption or even as drastic as criminal support,” he said. —/TISG
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