SINGAPORE: In the wake of the S$2.8 billion money laundering scandal authorities uncovered in August, the biggest in the country’s history, Mr Ravi Menon has said that Singapore is looking into how artificial intelligence (AI) would be useful in fighting against it.

Mr Menon, who heads Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said in a recent interview with CBA that AI may be able to help with strengthening “big-picture surveillance.”

Therefore, the central bank is “most keen” to determine how AI can aid in fighting this type of illegal activity. Over the past few years, it has become easier for money launderers to transfer and withdraw money without being detected. Industry experts have estimated that the amount of money laundered each year could be as much as 2 to 5 per cent of the global GDP, around US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) each year. Many countries, therefore, have stepped up efforts in combating money laundering.

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In June, Google Cloud announced the launch of Anti Money Laundering AI, an artificial intelligence (AI) powered product aimed at helping financial institutions worldwide detect money laundering more effectively and efficiently. AML AI “provides a consolidated machine learning (ML)-generated customer risk score as an alternative to rules-based transaction alerting,” the company said when the product was launched.

The recent large-scale money laundering case in Singapore underlined the need for better surveillance. “Money launderers operate across different financial institutions, and you need to be able to join the dots across them,” Mr Menon told CNA.

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He added that AI may be applied to COSMIC – the Collaborative Sharing of Money Laundering/Terrorism Financing Information and Cases—a platform online that allows financial institutions to share information on customers or transactions that appear to be questionable. By helping to fill in gaps, AI would help COSMIC see the bigger picture in money laundering activities.

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AI is the theme of the FinTech Festival scheduled for Nov 15 to 17. And while the technology has enormous potential, Mr Menon issued a caveat.  “Like all technologies, AI brings great promise and great peril. We need to be realistic in appreciating both sides. How can we harness the benefits and not get too scared about the risks? At the same time, we can’t be too wide-eyed about it and ignore some of the risks,” CNA quotes him as saying.

In August, police rounded up 10 foreign nationals, nine men and one woman, connected to a money-laundering case involving S$2.8 billion. The large-scale case has caused the country’s financial institutions to tighten policies. /TISG