Ministerial statement on money laundering: how the case was uncovered in likely the largest anti-money laundering operation in the world

ministerial statement on money laundering how the case was uncovered in likely the largest anti money laundering operation in the world

Singapore’s money laundering case is one of the largest anti-money laundering operations not just in Singapore, but likely the world as well, Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information & Second Minister for Home Affairs said in a ministerial statement. 

The probe is comprehensive and extensive.

How it was uncovered

It began with disparate information received by police on suspicious activities.

A few signals were picked up in 2021. This includes the use of suspected forged documents to substantiate sources of funds in bank accounts in Singapore.

Some Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) were filed by financial institutions and other companies, Mrs Teo said in her ministerial statement.

In early 2022, Police launched a comprehensive, coordinated intelligence probe, working quietly and cautiously. 

To avoid alerting the suspects, the work was kept to a very small group of officers. A decision was made to hold off any enforcement or overt investigative actions.

The aim was to probe extensively and develop as full a picture as possible of the suspects and their associates, their suspected criminal activities, and their assets, before making any move against them, said Mrs Teo.

The probe uncovered a web of individuals believed to have connections amongst themselves, including by familial ties.

The web grew as the probe progressed. More and more individuals were implicated and more and more of their assets held in Singapore were discovered.

Earlier this year, the Police assessed that they had enough information, and consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers. AGC assessed that we had sufficient reason to suspect that criminal offences had been committed in Singapore.

On 15 August, Police moved decisively against the suspects.

Probe carried out at the behest of China? Completely untrue!

Addressing the speculation circulating in news outlets – internationally and domestically – that this operation was carried out at the behest of China, Mrs Teo said that this was completely untrue.

Singapore does not need another country to tell us what to do to enforce our laws.

“Singapore does not need another country to tell us what to do to enforce our laws,” Mrs Teo said. 

We started investigations because we suspected that offences had been committed in Singapore, she said.

Screenshot 2023 10 04 084925
A court illustration of 10 foreigners accused of involvement in a August 2023 major money laundering operation in Singapore (clockwise from top left) Su Baolin, Su Haijin, Chen Qingyuan, Su Wenqiang, Lin Baoying, Zhang Ruijin, Wang Dehai, Su Jianfeng, Vang Shuiming and Wang Baosen.


Ten persons have been arrested and charged for offences including laundering criminal proceeds. Some have been charged with forgery as well. 

The 10 persons hold Employment Passes and Dependant’s Passes. At the time of their applications for these passes, none of them were on INTERPOL’s Red Notice.

Two of the ten persons have been charged with additional offences of resisting arrest and perverting the course of justice.

The proceeds likely came from criminal activities that took place outside of Singapore. These include illegal online gambling and unlicensed money lending.

Many others, who are not arrested, are assisting with investigations. Yet others are wanted by Police for investigations but are not in Singapore.

To date, the total value of assets seized or issued with prohibition of disposal orders by the Police stands at more than S$2.8 billion.

They include 152 properties and 62 vehicles with a total estimated value of more than S$1.24 billion, thousands of bottles of liquor and wine, monies in banks, cryptocurrencies, 68 gold bars, 294 luxury bags, 164 luxury watches, and 546 pieces of jewellery.

The seized assets will be dealt with accordingly and under our laws, depending on the findings.

The disposal will be conducted by the courts.

Donations to charities

Some of the arrested individuals made donations to charities in Singapore.

Some charities have decided on their own to ringfence these donations. Others have made Police reports and plan to surrender the monies to the Police.

The Commissioner of Charities will issue an advisory to encourage all charities to review their donor records to ascertain whether they have received donations from the arrested individuals and entities linked to them, and file the requisite suspicious transaction reports. It will also include advice to charities on how to handle the monies. 

Likely the largest anti-money laundering operation in the world

In summary, Mr Teo said this case is one of the largest anti-money laundering operations not just in Singapore, but likely the world.

“We probed extensively to uncover the linkages. We were comprehensive in our actions and operation

“We will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against people who would use Singapore as a haven to launder proceeds of crime. We will deal with them and their ill-gotten gains to the fullest extent of our laws.” 

Money Laundering Risks Which International Financial Centres Face

Singapore is an attractive place for investments and businesses. There is political and economic stability, strong rule of law, and transparency. People are assured that their money is safe here.

What makes Singapore attractive as a financial hub also make us attractive as a place for money laundering.

Criminals will try to exploit our economic openness and our strong reputation for the rule of law, to launder their illicit funds, and create the appearance of legitimacy, said Mrs Teo.

As one of the leading international financial centres in the world, the daily transactions in Singapore are voluminous.

We rely on various stakeholders (the financial institutions and other gatekeepers in the system like corporate service providers, property agents, precious stones and precious metals dealers) to conduct the necessary checks and detect possible risks. 

Singapore has in place a robust anti-money laundering regime.

In its last evaluation of Singapore in 2016, the FATF assessed Singapore to have a strong legal and institutional framework against money laundering and terrorism financing. 

Nevertheless, this case is a reminder that even the most stringent preventive measures can be circumvented by determined criminals. 

However, it also shows that our system is able to detect suspicious individuals and activities, and that when we do, we have the resolve and capabilities to track them down, and take them to task. 

The government have since moved to further strengthen our regime.

“We have updated our prevention frameworks to keep pace with the evolving risks and typologies of money laundering, and strengthened our capabilities to proactively detect and take firm enforcement action,” Mrs Teo said. 


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