Singapore - The authorities here have extended their war on terror to the financial front by clamping down on "dirty money". Since 2000, about S$85 million in "criminal proceeds linked to money-laundering" has been seized as reports of suspicious transactions continue to climb.
"Denying terrorists access to the financial and material support necessary for the execution of their insidious plans is a crucial part of the general war on terror," said Singapore Solicitor-General Chan Seng Onn at the opening of a two-day Asia-Pacific Financial Crime Conference on July 28.
Mr Chan said financial institutions and the wider business community have added teeth to the Singapore government's tougher regulatory measures by filing more suspicious transactions reports (STRs) to a central STR office.
He noted that the STR office is encouraging financial institutions - which are often targeted by money launderers and terrorism financiers as a conduit for their illegal activities - to submit even more such reports.
"This will help make Singapore an inhospitable place for money launders and terrorism financiers," Mr Chan said. He added that "the authorities are aware of the need to strike a judicious balance" between imposing regulatory costs on industry players while clamping down on financial crime.
Professor Barry Rider, consultant with Beachcroft Wansbroughs UK, said Singapore is "at risk to terrorist finance because of where it is geographically". But Prof Rider noted that "Singapore is really much more advanced than many countries" in terms of implementing the anti-moneylaundering framework.
According to the International Monetary Fund in 1998, money launders and terrorists were estimated to have a global war chest of US$800 billion to US$2 trillion. In Asia-Pacific alone, the figure is estimated to be about US$200 billion. Al-Qaeda terrorists who staged the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the United Statesmade extensive use of wire transactions, ATMS, credit cards and other financial instruments, to finance their operations.
* $85m 'dirty money' seized since 2000 (The Straits Times, July 29)