SINGAPORE: The Financial Times (FT) reported on Monday (Feb 12) that a private wine club catering to Singapore’s wealthiest has shut down even as regulations have tightened and the authorities have taken to keeping a closer eye on people’s assets in the wake of last year’s S$3 billion money-laundering case, the biggest in the country’s history.

“Circle 33, which was famed for its extensive wine menu with prices that ran into six figures, came to symbolise the flow of wealth to Singapore during the pandemic, especially from super-rich Chinese fleeing draconian restrictions in mainland China,” wrote FT.

FT also reported that the toney Circle 33 on Scotts Road, which opened in 2021, did not renew its lease last year and is now closed, citing three individuals familiar with the matter.

The report added that sales of luxury goods, including cars, watches, flats, and memberships in golf clubs, have also decreased after the arrest of ten foreign nationals suspected of money laundering in August 2023.

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Several individuals who used to go to Circle 33 told the publication that high-flying executives from China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia were often present at the wine club and helped give Circle 33 a dubious reputation.

One source was quoted as saying, “It was printing money but members stopped going after it was spoken about in the media and earned a reputation.”

Meanwhile, another source said that after the club did not earn enough, the owners, including the restaurant’s co-founder, chose not to renew Circle 33’s lease.

The wine club has no posted website, and according to Google, Circle 33 is permanently closed.

The arrest of the 10 money laundering suspects last August gave rise to closer scrutiny from authorities of banks, Good Class Bungalows, family offices, companies, and other assets to which the ten suspects reportedly had ties.

The closer scrutiny has caused Singapore’s ultrarich to be more cautious in spending their wealth.

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FT’s report quoted a car industry consultant, Say Kwee Neng, saying, “I heard stories of how the authorities were visiting authorised dealers for Porsche, Ferrari, and Bentley.

Specifically, they wanted to know why more detailed background checks weren’t conducted by the dealers to ascertain the source of funding for these people of interest.”

A real estate agent told the publication, “The high-end market fuelled by foreigners was already softening due to higher stamp duty costs. The laundering scandal was the nail in the coffin.” /TISG

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