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HomeNewsSingaporeSingapore money laundering case questions use of online gaming proceeds from other jurisdictions: lawyer

Singapore money laundering case questions use of online gaming proceeds from other jurisdictions: lawyer

The recent multi-billion-dollar money laundering case in Singapore has highlighted how licensed gaming operators outside of the city-state could potentially face criminal consequences if funds from such activities are being funneled into the Merlion city.

Lau Kok Keng
Lau Kok Keng, Head of Gaming Law, Rajah & Tann Singapore

Speaking at a panel during G2E Asia, in Macau, Tier 1 gaming lawyer Lau Kok Keng noted that the individuals who had been processed in the case were prosecuted for laundering proceeds of crime.

The Partner and Head of Gaming Law Practice at Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP highlighted that in the current case “forged documents were used to facilitate payments into Singapore banks”.

The law expert indicated that for Singaporean authorities, if the activity is deemed a crime within Singapore, even though the activity is committed overseas, that “the amount derived from the activity are considered proceeds of crime”.

The money-laundering case involved some SG$3 billion ($2.23 billion), the scale of which “is something that caught us off guard,” notes the law expert.

Explaining the case, the lawyer indicated that it involved a “network of people of Chinese, PRC, origin who had taken on different nationalities”.

“The majority were involved in Philippine online gambling and their operations targeted mainland Chinese,” he notes.

The ostentatious nature of their movements in Singapore, “throwing parties, buying luxury cars, renting bungalows where people of the establishment lived”, drew the eye of authorities, who investigated and eventually raided numerous locations linked to the supposed money-laundering ring.

“Fortunate for many of them, they were out of the country at the time […] Of the assets that were frozen and forfeited to the state […] about SG$2.1 billion ($1.56 billion) belonged to those who had fled Singapore”.

The lawyer notes that “the basis for the forfeiture was that (the assets) were proceeds of crime”- specifically online gambling.

Lau Kok Keng specifies that “in Singapore it’s also an offense to gamble with an overseas operator that’s not licensed in Singapore […] whatever gains the operator made in the Philippines were also proceeds of crime”, under Singapore law.

The gaming law expert noted that he’s unsure whether the Philippine-based online gaming operations reportedly linked to the money-laundering ring may or may not have been licensed.

Given the speed of the prosecution of the individuals apprehended by Singapore authorities, the gaming law expert notes “what this means is the courts never had the chance to determine whether gains derived from a licensed operator overseas would be considered proceeds of crime”.

He furthered that this could result in a “chilling effect” potentially regarding even fully licensed operations, because Philippine online gaming operators (not licensed in Singapore) “who buy property in Singapore could (be considered to be) laundering proceeds of crime”.

Kelsey Wilhelm
Kelsey Wilhelm
Kelsey Wilhelm is a broadcast, print journalist and editor based in Asia for over 15 years. Focused on content creation, management, cross-cultural exchange and interviews for multi-lingual productions. Writing focus on gaming, business, politics, culture and heritage, events and celebrities, subcultures, music, film, art and fashion. Some of Kelsey's specialties are: editing, writing, copy creation, multi-lingual content production, cross-cultural exchange, content creation and management for Asian markets.



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