Five Singapore banks have been found guilty of money laundering Malaysia’s state fund 1MDB. In a press release today (May 30), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued a fine of S$700,000 on Singapore-based Swiss bank Credit Suisse and S$900,000 on Singapore bank United Overseas Bank (UOB). Three other unnamed banks – believed to be DBS, UBS and Standard Chartered – were founded guilty for money laundering and will be fined. However, no individual who assisted in the money laundering was singled out or jailed.
According to MAS’s press release:
“The latest inspections of Credit Suisse and UOB revealed several breaches of anti-money laundering (AML) requirements and control lapses. They included weaknesses in conducting due diligence on customers and inadequate scrutiny of customers’ transactions and activities.”
The fines were in addition to the earlier fines issued in Dec 2016 – S$1 million for DBS, S$1.3 million for UBS, S$2.4 million for Coutts Singapore and S$5.2 million for Standard Chartered.
MAS told the banks to take “disciplinary actions” of “errant staffs” and did not impose any jail sentence. With no jail sentence for any banker in the 5 banks, MAS’s light-handed punishment will likely encourage similar money laundering practices and embolden errant bankers.
In May and Oct 2016, two Switzerland banks involved with the money laundering of 1MDB funds, Singapore branches of Falcon Private Bank and BSI bank, were forced to shut down their operations. Falcon bank was then fined S$4.3 million for charges including not filing reports of suspicious transactions. BSI bank was fined S$13.3 million and its two directors were jailed 18 and 2 weeks.
Given the number of Singapore banks involved in the 1MDB money laundering, it is surprising that the MAS is ignorant of the transactions given the PAP regime’s involvement in financial regulations, which the government often laud itself for having one of the strictest banking framework in the world.