Shanmugam Explained What Sparked the Money Laundering Investigations

The infamous billion-dollar laundering scheme that was recently “upsized” to nearly twice its original amount… how could we ever forget about it?

Hundreds of millions of illegal assets. Ten suspicious individuals. A foiled escape plan that culminated in a face-off in a drain. The saga had all the hallmarks of a classic Hollywood movie, but did you know that it could have been even more cinematic?

Shanmugam Explained What Sparked the Money Laundering Investigations

So you may be wondering. Just what exactly triggered the money laundering investigations in the first place?

Some reckoned that it had something to do with a visit by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on 10 August 2023: a notion that would have set any self-respecting filmmaker’s mind ablaze. But if you’re one of the reckoners, I’m afraid I must burst your bubble…

Because Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has quashed those rumours himself… and with utmost certainty.

In an exclusive interview with Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaoba, Mr Shanmugam revealed that the visit had no correlation and that there was no external pressure whatsoever.

He emphasised that Singapore does not “yield to that sort of pressure from any country.” It has to be illegal here in Singapore for the relevant authorities to take action.

Indeed, the investigations commenced solely because there was reason to do so. And apparently, they have been going on for months behind the scenes, with scrutinising questions being posed from all angles to ensure a legitimate cause for arrest.

Things such as illegality in Singapore, for instance, were looked through in a thorough manner.

“What’s the possible criminality overseas?” Mr Shanmugam stated. “Who are the people involved? What’s the network? How did the money track through to Singapore?”

“It has got to stand up in court. It’s got to be proven in court. So you need to do your investigations thoroughly.”

He reiterated: “We have been working on this for many, many months.”

“It’s got no connection with the Foreign Minister’s visit.”


Mr Shanmugam also answered several other questions on the case, such as how the assets will be handled and how the suspects will be treated.

In response to the first, he stated that the case would be dealt with in a similar manner to those concerning the seizure of assets. The final decision will, however, ultimately lie in the hands of the courts.

As for the latter, he responded that the foreigners would have to serve the sentence first. If it’s a custodial sentence, they will then get deported accordingly.

If there’s an extradition request from a country, however, the relevant authorities will comply.

Mr Shanmugam also emphasised that Singapore has incorporated a “robust, comprehensive anti-money laundering framework” with the “international best practices”. Though he conceded that it’s hard to pick up on every single “illegal dollar”, he stated that they have a “robust mechanism, robust framework” and will “not hesitate to take action.”

Billion Dollar Scheme

So, lest you’ve been dwelling under a rock, you would surely be aware of the billion-dollar scheme by now.

On Tuesday (15 August 2023), ten foreign internationals, nine men and one woman, were nabbed in an island-wide raid.

It was one of the largest anti-money laundering operations here.

The foreign internationals were believed to have laundered somewhere around a billion dollars (now elevated to $1.8 billion), utilising the profits from overseas ventures such as scams and virtual gambling.

Since then, the saga has grown to include fake business sites, wives and, curiously, nannies.