Screenshot from ICIJ report

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Monday (21 Sept) that it will closely study the information pertained to Singapore banks being mentioned in the leaked documents of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that contained suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and financial institutions.

The SARs, known as the FinCEN files, contained information about transactions that worth more than US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) dated between 1999 and 2017 which were flagged by internal compliance departments of financial institutions as “suspicious”.

FinCEN is a bureau of the US Department of the Treasury that collects and analyses information on financial transactions to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes.

BuzzFeed News was first to publish the files on Sunday (20 Sept) as it obtained more than 2,100 of these SARs and shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Five global banks that appeared most in the documents were HSBC, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and Bank of New York Mellon, according to the ICIJ report.

Singapore banks – namely DBS, OCBC and UOB – were also mentioned in the FinCEN files.

The ICIJ report highlighted that SARs only reflects the concerns of watchdogs within banks and are “not necessarily evidence of criminal conduct or other wrongdoing”.

Following that, MAS said it is aware of Singapore banks being mentioned in the reports and will take “appropriate action” based on the outcome of its review.

“Although suspicious transaction reports in and of themselves do not imply that the transactions are illicit, MAS takes such reports very seriously,” the spokesperson from MAS told Channel News Asia in an emailed reply.

“MAS is closely studying the information in these media reports, and will take appropriate action based on the outcome of our review. Singapore’s regulatory framework to combat money laundering meets international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force,” it added.

According to the map by ICIJ, a total of 1,781 transactions flowed through Singapore, with close to US$3 billion entering the city-state and about US$1.5 billion flowing out.

It was stated that DBS and UOB each had more than 500 of “potentially suspicious” transactions, while OCBC had 62 transactions dated between 2000 and 2017.

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