Published: 15 February 2022
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs in each year from 2012 to 2021 (a) how many individuals have approached the Ministry, Singapore Prisons Service or Yellow Ribbon Singapore for assistance because they were involved with financial crimes, and were deemed a credit risk and therefore unable to open bank accounts; and (b) how many accounts were successfully opened following the Ministry’s intervention.
Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law:
1. Banks may have concerns with account opening requests, if the applicants have been implicated in serious crimes such as those related to money laundering, loansharking, scams, and other financial crimes, and where the banks have difficulty confirming the source of the applicants’ funds.
2. When we receive appeals from ex-offenders who are unable to open bank accounts, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) and Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) will refer the cases to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for assistance.
3. MAS has been working with the larger retail banks to enhance financial inclusion by opening limited-purpose bank accounts for individuals whom the banks assess pose a higher risk of being implicated in financial crimes. Such limited-purpose accounts allow the individuals to carry out banking transactions for daily needs.
4. We would like to clarify that while credit risk is a consideration for banks in granting credit facilities such as credit cards, it is typically not a consideration for the opening of bank accounts.
5. Based on available records, from 2019 to 2021, YRSG received six requests for assistance from ex-offenders who were unable to open bank accounts. Of these six requests, four were eventually successful.
6. Most ex-offenders have no problems opening bank accounts. SPS has been collaborating with POSB since 2015 to assist ex-offenders in opening and maintaining bank accounts. All local ex-offenders are given a discharge letter issued by SPS, which lists selected POSB branches that they can visit to open a bank account. The service charge that would usually be incurred for not meeting the minimum account balance will be waived for up to a year. To support the application for opening of the account, the applicant would simply need to present the discharge letter, and an employment referral letter from YRSG or a letter of employment.