Singapore regulator vows tougher action after 1MDB scandal

Added 26th July 2016

Lapses in anti-money laundering and other scandals have “made a dent” in Singapore’s reputation as a “clear and trusted financial centre”, said Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (Mas).

Singapore regulator vows tougher action after 1MDB scandal

Speaking on Monday, Menon said that Mas is determined to resolve any issues by working together with the financial services industry.

“Upholding high standards of integrity in the financial industry is an absolute priority for Mas. There can be no compromise on this. This means having an effective regime against financial misconduct and misdemeanours, and money laundering and terrorism financing.

“These threats have escalated in recent years as our financial centre grew in scale, sophistication, and connectedness with the rest of the world,” he said.

Action

Mas has imposed penalties on 27 financial institutions over the past three years for breaches of anti-money laundering or countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).

In May, the Malaysian regulator ordered that Swiss private bank BSI be shut down for a myriad of failings, including AML/CFT breaches.

"We will make public our sanctions against persistently or egregiously errant [financial institutions]."

The ongoing 1MDB scandal has seen four major banks facing action this month over their involvement with the scandal-ridden Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1 Malaysia Development Bhd.

“In the last six years, Mas has revoked the licenses of 15 money changers and remittance agents for serious AML/CFT breaches,” Menon said.

No hesitation

“But here too, we can do better,” he said. “Mas will further strengthen its enforcement capability to conduct rigorous investigations and to take swift and dissuasive actions against errant [financial institutions] (FIs). 

“We will take stronger regulatory actions against those FIs whose AML/CFT practices fall short of the expected standards. And we will make public our sanctions against persistently or egregiously errant FIs.

“Our closure of BSI Bank shows that we will not hesitate to take the most punitive actions where warranted. We are centralising all our enforcement functions across Mas in a new enforcement department. [It] will be responsible for not just AML/CFT offences but all other breaches of regulations and rules administered by Mas, including market conduct offences under the Securities and Futures Act,” he added.

He called on all stakeholders to work together to enhance Singapore’s reputation as a “clear and trusted financial centre”.

“It is neither realistic nor desirable to expect Mas to police every single transaction or activity in our financial markets. The responsibility lies with every FI to instil high standards of risk management and proper conduct at all levels. Boards and senior management in particular must send a clear signal that profits do not come before values and ethics. 

“There can be no room for flexibility in ethical standards,” Menon said. 

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About Author

Kirsten Hastings

Senior Reporter

Kirsten is a senior reporter for International Adviser, covering global news stories about the financial services industry. She joined Last Word Media in October 2015 after two years working as a reporter covering the staffing and recruitment industry. Kirsten has a Masters in Financial Journalism from the University of Stirling. 

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