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MAS files police report against author of States Times Review article that ‘impugned its integrity’

SINGAPORE — The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has filed a police report against the author of an online article on alternative news site States Times Review for making false and malicious statements that “impugned the integrity” of the financial regulator.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said that an article carried by States Times Review website, which alleged that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore, is "baseless and defamatory".

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said that an article carried by States Times Review website, which alleged that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore, is "baseless and defamatory".

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SINGAPORE — The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has filed a police report against the author of an online article on alternative news site States Times Review, saying that it made false and malicious statements that “impugned the integrity” of the financial regulator.

In a press release on Friday (Nov 9), the central bank said that the article — titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target” — is alleging that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore, in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in laundering funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

“The article is baseless and defamatory,” the MAS said, adding that it ignores the “unprecedented and robust actions” the regulator has taken over the last two years against Singapore-based banks and bankers in relation to their roles in 1MDB-related transactions, which were “in most instances ahead of enforcement actions by foreign jurisdictions”.

The authority also said that the article made false allegations that Singapore was forced to reopen its investigations into 1MDB, Malaysia's state investment firm, only after the change in political leadership in Malaysia. It pointed out that investigations into the case had never been closed.

“At its Annual Report Press Conferences in 2016 and 2017, MAS had made clear that it would not hesitate to investigate any new leads or evidence relating to 1MDB-related fund flows,” its spokesperson said. A joint public statement issued on June 8 by the MAS, the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Singapore Police Force, reiterated the same stance.

MAS said that Singapore’s law enforcement and regulatory agencies had been cooperating actively with its counterparts in Malaysia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the United States during the tenure of the previous Malaysian government.

“MAS has placed utmost importance on safeguarding its integrity as a financial regulator, and takes seriously any false allegations to the contrary,” it said.

On Wednesday, the Singapore High Commission in Malaysia had described an article published by online news portal The Coverage claiming that Mr Lee will be next to be investigated in the 1MDB probe as fake news and "clearly libellous".

The article, titled “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target — Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements with Hsien Loong In Exchange for Money Laundering”, was sourced from another blog, the States Times Review. 

Following MAS’ police report, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said in a statement on Friday that it has “accordingly assessed that the article undermined public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore Government”.

The article “is objectionable on grounds of public interest, and would therefore constitute prohibited content under IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice”, the statement added.

IMDA said that it has issued a notice to States Times Review to remove the “offending article” by 5pm on Friday, failing which, the agency will direct Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to restrict access to the site. This was carried out after the website did not comply with its notice at the specified time. 

IMDA added that it has also asked Facebook to deny access to the post with the article, but Facebook has indicated that it will not remove the post.

"With regard to further regulatory actions, IMDA will decide on the appropriate actions to take based on the facts of each case," it said in a statement issued at 12.40am on Saturday.

On Friday night, past 10pm, The States Times Review's editor Alex Tan put up a Facebook post saying that the website has been blocked and he will “desist” from running it.

News of States Times Review’s closure was already announced last month, but Mr Tan said then that he would continue putting up the same content on what will be his "personal blog". On Friday, he said that he has decided to stop writing and “continue (his) life in Australia”.

He also said that the Facebook page of States Times Review will shut down in two weeks. “Do take note that this shut-down notice is of my own volition, and not pressure from anyone,” he wrote.

Mr Tan, the former editor of defunct website The Real Singapore, started States Times Review in 2015. He called it Straits Times Review at first, but renamed it after newspaper publisher Singapore Press Holdings said that it was taking legal action against him for borrowing the name of its flagship newspaper, The Straits Times.

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