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Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Effectiveness of Sentences under Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 in Deterring Money Laundering

Published: 08 May 2024

Question:

Mr Leong Mun Wai: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether sentences for offences under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 have sufficiently deterred individuals from engaging in money laundering; and (b) if not, whether the Government will consider strengthening the sentencing regime.


Answer:

Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law:

1. The Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 (“CDSA”) provides for fines ranging from S$150,000 to S$500,000, and jail terms ranging from 3 years to 10 years, or both, depending on the nature of the money laundering offences. This is similar to the penalties for other serious offences, like cheating and forgery. It is also comparable with the sentencing regimes in other jurisdictions such as Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany and France.

2. The CDSA was reviewed and updated twice in recent years. In 2018, we strengthened penalties against legal persons and failure to file a Suspicious Transaction Report. In 2023, we enabled Police to take firmer enforcement action against money mules.

3. The Act sets out the range of penalties. The Courts will then consider the appropriate penalties to be imposed, based on the specific facts of the case. Factors that may be 26 considered in the sentencing include the amount of money laundered, the length of the offending conduct, and the culpability of the accused person which would include the extent of his abuse of Singapore’s financial system. The Courts will also take into account mitigating factors such as the accused person’s plea of guilt and voluntary forfeiture of seized assets.

4. With respect to the S$3 billion money laundering case, the Courts would likely have taken such factors into consideration, including the relatively early plea of guilt, and agreement by the accused persons that most of the funds be forfeited to the State. This has saved public resources by avoiding long-drawn court processes. So far, the sentences meted out by the Singapore Courts have been comparable to those in other jurisdictions. And, like other foreigners convicted of serious offences in Singapore, these offenders will be deported after serving their sentence and will be banned from re-entering Singapore.

5. The risk of imprisonment is an important deterrent against money laundering. Asset forfeiture is another crucial tool in our arsenal against white-collar crime, as it deprives criminals of their illicit proceeds, and hence acts as a deterrence to laundering their monies here. But the biggest deterrent of all, is the prospect of being caught.

6. Globally, cases of money laundering are very difficult to uncover. There are not many cases as big as the S$3 billion money laundering case, which was the result of extensive intelligence probes, and painstaking piecing together of disparate types of information. This is not because there are no such monies being laundered in other jurisdictions. Rather, criminals hide their tracks very carefully. We know this from our foreign law enforcement counterparts as well.

7. What this S$3 billion case has shown is our system’s ability to detect suspicious individuals and activities. And once we become aware of them, we have the resolve and capabilities to track the criminals down.

8. Nevertheless, we continue to tighten our measures. MHA is tabling a Bill at a later Sitting to amend the CDSA to further enhance law enforcement agencies’ abilities to pursue and prosecute offenders for money laundering offences. The Bill will also allow sectoral regulators to have access to Suspicious Transaction Reports filed by their regulated entities, to better detect money laundering activities.