The seizure of assets worth 1.8 billion Singaporean dollars ($1.3 billion) and as many as 10 arrests have brought Singapore’s image as a clean business hub under scrutiny.
The Singapore police arrested 10 foreign nationals – aged between 31 and 44 and seized luxury items including Hermes handbags, Patek Philippe watches, aged Macallan whisky, and Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars in several raids last month.
The arrested suspects are believed to be originally from Fuji in eastern China but include Cypriot, Turkish, Cambodian, and Vanuatuan passport holders.
The police claimed that the seized assets were the ill-gotten gains of organised crime committed overseas, including scams and online gambling. The proceeds of these gains were brought into the country and filtered through its financial institutions.
The case has cast a spotlight on Singapore which had been seen as a low-crime financial hub, or a “Switzerland of the East”.
It is also unwelcome news for Singapore’s ruling party, which has been rocked by a string of rare political scandals in the past few months, including a corruption probe involving the transport minister.