On The Prevention Of Proliferation Of Financing And Other Matters Bill — Speech by Dennis Tan

Mr Speaker, I declare my interest as a practising advocate and solicitor in the Supreme Court of Singapore.

Mr Speaker, we are told that this Bill seeks to amend the Precious Stones and Precious Metals (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act 2019, the Legal Profession Act 1966, the Moneylenders Act 2008 and the Pawnbrokers Act 2015 to provide for the prevention of the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This arises from new requirements introduced by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October 2020 for member states and reporting entities to assess the risk of proliferation financing in relation to their business and to take measures to mitigate the assessed risk. The proposed amendments to the said Acts add to the existing provisions in respect of prevention of money laundering and prevention of terrorism financing.

In August last year, SPF arrested 10 foreigners holding multiple citizenships for alleged money laundering offences involving cash, luxury properties, cars, gold bars, handbags, jewellery, branded watches, and cryptocurrency, including more than 68 gold bars, 294 luxury bags, 164 branded watches and 546 pieces of jewellery[1]. The assets seized in what is Singapore’s biggest money laundering case have risen to more than S$3 billion by January[2]. In October 2023, we were told that 152 properties and 62 vehicles were involved. We were told last month that 55 new properties and 15 vehicles were given prohibition of disposal orders by the police[3]. Minister Josephine Teo had said that the proceeds “most likely came from criminal activities abroad, including illegal online gambling and unlicensed moneylending”[4].

Mr Speaker, this is very disconcerting, not least because of the value of the funds and assets involved but that they had taken place despite existing money laundering laws and regulations having been introduced over the years.

The inability of our existing laws and regulations to prevent the current money laundering case is worrying. If banks, law firms, property companies or other businesses or professionals who assisted in property purchase or transfer of funds could have failed to detect or prevent transfer or use of money laundering proceeds, it can also happen to money lenders, dealers of precious stones and precious metals, not to mention, our neighbourhood pawnbrokers.

I am mindful that investigation is pending but I would like to ask the Government whether it is able to share what are, to date, the lessons which we have learned from the case so far as far as AML compliance is concerned? Has any lesson been applied to today’s amendments?

How have our existing laws or regulations failed to stop the culprits from bringing into Singapore, funds which have been the subject of money laundering and/or from proceeds of organised crime activities and to be allowed to invest such funds in different ways in Singapore such as buying properties? Has the Government started reviewing the existing laws and if not, whether and when it will do so? These are highly relevant to today’s Bill as we are seeking to apply the current suite of laws and regulations against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and we need to be assured that the current laws or the proposed amendments can provide adequate gatekeeping to prevent entry to Singapore of funds for financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

I also hope that the authorities will also review the adequacy of the due diligence efforts of banks, law firms and other professionals or stakeholders who were involved in respect of the funds brought in by the said foreign nationals in the ongoing money laundering case or in respect of funds used for the purchases of different properties and to consider what laws, regulations and measures need to be enhanced to strengthen the current due diligence process required of all professionals and stakeholders and hopefully minimise the risks of such cases recurring, which is embarrassing for our country and tarnishes Singapore’s reputation`.  

Mr Speaker, notwithstanding my questions, I support this Bill.

[1] Ministerial Statement by Minister Josephine Teo, 3 October 2023;

[2] Arrest warrants out for 2 more laundering suspects; one has S$145 million in bank accounts

[3] Arrest warrants out for 2 more laundering suspects; one has S$145 million in bank accounts

[4] S’pore money laundering case among world’s largest with assets seized worth over $2.8b