Key Player in Singapore’s Largest Money Laundering Case Sentenced, $132M Assets Seized

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There was a pervading sense of justice in Singapore on Monday as the final member of a network of ten defendants implicated in the city-state’s most colossal money laundering case was given a sentence of seventeen months behind bars. Su Jianfeng, who was pictured shortly after his arrival to the island nation in 2019, was a key figure in a money laundering syndicate. It was a gargantuan operation that illegally sluiced about S$3 billion– equivalent to US$2.2 billion – through Singaporean banks and business ventures.

Last week, Su Jianfeng admitted to his guilt on two charges: one of money laundering under Singapore’s stringent Corruption, Drug Trafficking, and Other Serious Crimes Act, and another of forgery. In addition, he acquiesced to surrendering S$178.9 million (US$132 million) of his assets to the Singaporean authorities.

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Su’s first charge was tied to his possession of S$551K, or about US$407K – proceeds accrued from an unlawful gambling enterprise stationed in the Philippines as stated by the prosecutors. The second was centered on his fraudulent use of a counterfeit property-sale agreement to illuminate the derivation of deposits made into his bank account.

Following its disclosure in August 2023, Su’s monumental participation in the S$3 billion money laundering operation created a shock wave throughout Singapore. Despite Su being the latest defendant to be sentenced, other participants still roam free with the authorities contemplating that the network could encompass hundreds of individuals. The preceding nine defendants involved in this same case had faced prison terms ranging from 12 to 16 months.

The case raised numerous questions on how the network’s members managed to circulate money through Singapore’s banking establishment for an extended period without evoking suspicion. There is also bewilderment as to how they managed to freely invest in various Singaporean corporations to obscure illegally obtained funds from gambling and scam operations based overseas.

This sensational case prompted a reassessment of banking guidelines in the financial nexus, which has traditionally been a welcoming haven for the super-rich. Despite all defendants originally hailing from China’s Fujan province, some held a portfolio of passports from assorted countries that included Cambodia, Cyprus, and Dominica – jurisdictions where citizenship can be procured by affluent individuals under the guise of an “investment scheme.”

Remarkably Su was an official joint-national of Vanuatu, a South Pacific Island nation where a passport can be procured for a mere $130K as per the government’s online information.

After relocating from China to Singapore with his family in 2019, Su portrayed himself as a property dealer with operations in Dubai real estate. Prior to his arrival in Singapore, he was based in Malaysia and then the Philippines, which also happened to be home to the online gambling operations. He chose Singapore specifically with the intention of providing good education for his children.

However, Su’s deceptive practices were eventually unveiled. In August 2021, he attempted to explain two suspicious deposits totaling around S$2 million to the financial crime compliance unit at his bank by submitting a sales contract for a Dubai property which was later established to be a forgery.

In addition to the charge involving S$550,903, which Su accepted as part of his plea deal, the prosecution recommended consideration of three identical charges. These implicated amounts of S$5 million each and a third charge concerning S$7 million.

According to chief prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng, these figures were “indicative of the scale and significance of the accused’s offending and demonstrate a high degree of disregard for the law on the part of the accused.” “The swift prosecution of these ten cases sends a potent message to potential criminals that Singapore will not tolerate attempts to subvert our laws,” he added.