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Singapore to use data tracking against money laundering

Singapore is the first country to take legal action against bankers linked to the 1MDB scandal in neighbouring Malaysia. Photograph: (Getty)

AFP Singapore Sep 06, 2016, 01.46 PM (IST)
Singapore will step up the fight against money-laundering with a newly created surveillance unit and data tracking but private banks must take the lead, its chief financial regulator said today. 

Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) which also serves as the central bank, said financial institutions must set the right moral tone to help battle illicit fund flows.

"Boards and senior management in particular must send a clear signal that profits do not come before values and ethics, and compensation structures must motivate not only high performance but also right conduct," Menon told a forum with foreign correspondents. He declined to specifically address the 1MDB scandal in neighbouring Malaysia which has involved banks based in Singapore, denting the city-state's reputation.

1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was launched by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 and closely overseen by him.

Allegations of a vast international scheme of embezzlement and money-laundering involving billions of dollars of 1MDB money began to emerge two years ago.

Singapore is the first country to take legal action against bankers linked to the scandal.

"We will make more robust risk assessments of financial institutions’ business activities, client profiles , geographical connections, transaction volumes and quality of controls," Menon said. He said technology that can process huge amounts of data and find tell-tale patterns will be used to monitor illicit fund flows and transactions. 

The MAS in August formally launched a unit to fight money laundering.

In May it expelled Switzerland's BSI Bank for "gross misconduct" related to the Malaysian fund and recommended that six of its bankers face charges. 

Last month Singapore revealed it had seized nearly $180 million in assets through its investigations into suspected fraud and money-laundering linked to 1MDB.

(AFP)
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