CAD confiscated $164.5m last year

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Amount of assets seized from foreign criminal proceedings up by five times

Singapore last year seized five times the amount of assets from foreign criminal proceedings compared with 2015, stemming from increased surveillance, regulatory action and international cooperation with foreign law enforcement.

The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) confiscated $164.5 million, up from $33.6 million the previous year, while joint investigations into money laundering offences rose from five to 13 cases in the same period, according to its latest annual report.

The monies were seized from foreign predicate offences, which are crimes that took place overseas but where funds were passed through Singapore, and include crimes like money laundering and financing of terrorists or terrorist groups.

CAD director David Chew was quoted in the report as attributing the jump in numbers to the "deepened engagement" with foreign counterparts: "When it comes to cross-border crimes, we are as strong as our weakest link. It is therefore important that we not just build our capabilities - we need to collaborate with our foreign counterparts to build capacity in order to stay ahead of the crime trends."

Last year, the CAD partnered Chinese authorities to crack down on overseas syndicates targeting Singaporeans in credit-for-sex scams, which led to the rounding up of 140 suspects in China.

Cyber and financial crime expert Vincent Loy said the increase in amounts seized is "undoubtedly" due to the authorities' increased surveillance and regulatory action taken on transnational crimes.

Singapore passed amendments to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act in 2014.

Changes include allowing a wider range of evidence to be adduced and stiffer penalties.

But as technology advances and the world gets more connected, Mr Loy said criminals will only get smarter.

"The authorities will of course increase regulation, but they will also have to make use of technological advancements to tackle the problem," he added.

Even as white-collar crimes become more sophisticated and transnational, entities like banks and money changers are also becoming more vigilant.

According to the CAD report released about a week ago, the number of suspicious transaction reports submitted last year hit a high of 34,129.

It marked a 12 per cent spike from 2015 and continued a rising trend from 2013 which saw 22,417 reports.

The CAD report noted: "The upward trend is an indication of the continued vigilance of reporting entities in detecting suspicious transactions and the anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism awareness (here)."