Singapore — In response to the FinCEN Files investigation published on Sunday (Sept 20) based on “Suspicious Activity Reports” showing that criminals moved around US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) in “dirty money” all over the world in some of the largest banks, including Singapore, DBS Bank has said that it is difficult to halt the type of transactions mentioned in the investigation.
According to the report, in Singapore, between 2000 and 2017, almost S$4.1 billion in 1,781 suspicious transactions was brought into the country, with around half of this amount moved back out.
Among the banks in Singapore that handled these questionable transactions are DBS Bank, CIMB Bank and Deutsche Bank. These transactions, however, do not automatically mean that wrongdoing has been committed by the banks and financial institutions.
DBS Bank appears in 461 of these transactions, with CIMB in at least 294. The reports say that between 2000 and 2017, DBS Bank sent over S$800 million (US$596.8 million) and received over S$311 million (US$228.3 million) in suspicious transactions.
The Coconuts Singapore website reported DBS Bank as saying, in an answer to questions about the dubious transactions, that the difficulty in stopping these transactions was because they would also affect legitimate ones. However, after they are reported to be suspicious, that is when the bank can begin to take action.
DBS Bank said: “We note that outside of sanctions on names or specific account freezes, it is generally very difficult to delay or intercept money in transit given the impact on legitimate business, so the normal process – which happens behind the scenes – involves subsequent investigations to establish suspicion, based on which the necessary action is taken.”
It also said that it has “zero tolerance for bad actors abusing the financial system” and that it also stands “united with the financial industry in collaborating with authorities to seize funds and disrupt criminal networks”.
The FinCEN Files investigation cites five global banks to appear most often in the list of suspicions transactions: Deutsche Bank, HSBC Bank, JPMorgan, Standard Chartered and Bank of New York Mellon.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has said it knows that banks in Singapore were part of the news reports concerning the FinCEN leak, and told The Straits Times it takes these reports very seriously.
A spokesman for MAS added that the country’s framework to fight against money laundering meets the Financial Action Task Force’s global standards. She said: “MAS is closely studying the information in these media reports, and will take appropriate action based on the outcome of our review.”
And while these questionable transactions are not considered as criminal in and of themselves, they are reported by banks and financial institution in order for regulating bodies to check up on them. TISG