CAD beefs up team to fight money laundering

Money changer Sheik Allavudeen S.S. Omar was fined for failing to keep proper records of transactions.

SINGAPORE - The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is trebling the number of financial investigation branches to tackle what may be a growing trend in money laundering and related financial crimes.

The move follows new laws enacted here last month that criminalise money laundering and tax offences.

"CAD will be conducting a reorganisation of its set-up and functions to keep up with the growing sophistication, complexities and scale of financial crimes in Singapore," said a police spokesman.

She added that the department will be increasing the number of branches dedicated to investigating money laundering from the current two to six, and the number of officers will be "more than doubled".

Declining to reveal absolute numbers, she emphasised that the "resources... dedicated to investigating money laundering have more than doubled since 2008".

The CAD received 17,975 suspicious transaction reports last year - up from 13,557 in 2011 and 11,934 in 2010.

Its investigations led to 71 convictions related to money laundering last year - a large increase from the 33 in 2011 and 18 in 2010.

"There is a new crime trend in which international criminal syndicates recruit Singapore residents on social networking websites to help launder criminal proceeds," the spokesman said.

Illicit funds are remitted into the bank accounts of these Singapore residents and are then withdrawn in cash or transferred to a foreign bank account.

Commenting on a recent overseas report that named Singapore as a destination for international tax dodgers, the CAD said: "The Singapore authorities are fully committed to safeguarding Singapore's financial system from being used to harbour proceeds from tax offences, including those from overseas."

The spokesman added that law enforcers here "actively cooperate" with their counterparts elsewhere through the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act and Exchange of Information regime.

The Straits Times understands that the CAD is looking into the report, which is said to have been compiled from computer files belonging to Singapore-based trust company Portcullis TrustNet.

christan@sph.com.sg

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