PMO: Bank accounts for ex-offenders – Speech by Gerald Giam

Members of this House will agree that access to basic banking facilities is essential in today’s digitalised society. These individuals are deprived of basic banking activities such as receiving their salaries. Employers do not usually agree to deposit into their family members’ bank accounts and are unwilling to pay them in cash. They also have difficulty receiving Government cash benefits like GST Vouchers – Cash.

Individuals with past criminal records have paid their dues to society and such a deprivation can be an impediment in their efforts to turn over a new leaf. Similarly, individuals under investigation are deprived despite the operation of the maxim “innocent until proven guilty”. These investigations can take any time between several months to years, which is a long time to function without access to basic banking facilities.

I understand MAS has been working with the larger retail banks to open limited-purpose bank accounts for individuals that banks assess to pose a higher risk of being implicated in financial crimes.

Can I ask the Minister, what are the limitations on such accounts? Will the functions of such accounts vary on a case-by-case assessment by the banks? Additionally, will the pool of eligible individuals for these accounts include persons who are currently under investigation?

This may emerge as a growing problem owing to the increase in bank accounts being frozen during investigations into financial crimes. Owing to the time-sensitivity of this matter, can I ask the Minister what is the progress of the rollout of these limited-purpose bank accounts? Is it generally available to all affected applicants yet? If not, when will it be generally available?