DBS Singapore facade

Singapore Police officers acted on information provided by the anti-mule team of DBS Bank. Photo courtesy: DBS

Close on the heels of Singapore hosting the Financial Action Task Force plenary and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong emphasising on asset recovery from money laundering and scams, the island nation saw joint operations by the Singapore Police Force and DBS Bank in which three people were arrested and SGD 1.28 million seized.

A report by The Straits Times today said that these three were arrested “for their suspected involvement in scam-related activities”. The news daily reported that 40 corporate bank accounts with more than SGD 1.28 million in total were seized for the purpose of investigations.

These developments came after weeklong operations against corporate money mules; they collectively form one of the key links in the money laundering and terrorism financing chain.

Two women, aged 21 and 39, and a man, aged 21, were arrested by Singapore Police Force officers from the Commercial Affairs Department and several police land divisions. They worked in co-ordination with the anti-mule team of DBS Bank.

The Singapore Police Force had also recently undertaken anti-mule joint ops with the United Overseas Bank (UOB). A police media release dated June 27 said: “Officers from the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) collaborated with UOB to conduct a joint operation targeting money mules from 17 to 24 June 2024. More than 110 suspicious bank accounts containing a total amount over $400,000, which were allegedly used to facilitate scam related activities, were blocked or seized during the joint operation.”

In the police ops with DBS, it was found that the arrested trio sold their Singpass credentials to scammers for SGD 2,000 per account. Using the Singpass credentials, the scammers set up fake sole proprietorships and corporate bank accounts — these were pathways for moving money stolen from victims.

ST reported that another 37 people were assisting with police investigations. Most of them had given their Singpass credentials to strangers or got tricked into clicking on malicious links.

Handing over access to Singpass credentials can land a person in serious trouble, as they are likely to get sucked into a criminal operation.

In the case of UOB joint ops, the police press release said: “Using UOB’s in-house data analytic models and network detection capabilities, suspicious transactions and bank accounts exhibiting potential money mule behaviour were identified.

“ASC officers then worked closely with UOB to further identify account holders whose bank accounts were suspected to have been used for money laundering activity. More than 40 UOB bank accounts containing over $210,000 were seized by police for investigations or internally blocked by UOB during this joint operation.”

Alongside, there were island-wide raids and investigations, which led to more suspects being questioned and more accounts being seized. “Stemming from the joint operation and through information sharing, UOB identified and blocked an additional 74 bank accounts with money laundering concerns and withheld over $195,000 of tainted funds,” said the police release.