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MAS taking less time to complete investigations into financial breaches, crime

SINGAPORE — The average time taken for the authorities to close investigations into financial breaches of financial laws and regulations has dropped significantly since at least mid-2017, a report by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) revealed on Wednesday (April 27).

MAS taking less time to complete investigations into financial breaches, crime
  • A report by the Monetary Authority of Singapore revealed that it is now taking a shorter time to close investigations into financial breaches 
  • The report also outlined various actions taken by the authority for an 18-month period up to December 2021
  • They included meting out S$2.59 million in financial penalties and compositions
  • A new segment in the report showed updates on high-profile cases such as those involving Hyflux and Envy Global

SINGAPORE — The average time taken for the authorities to close investigations into financial breaches has dropped since mid-2017, a report by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) revealed on Wednesday (April 27).

In the 18-month period up to December 2021, the average time taken to close investigations into criminal cases was nine months, down from 24 months during the preceding period. Before this period, it took on average of 33 months. 

Comparing the same time periods, the average time taken to investigate civil penalty cases took on average of 19 months, down from 26 months in the preceding period. In the first report, the average time taken was 30 months. 

Ms Peggy Pao, executive director for MAS’ enforcement department, highlighted that the authority does not gauge “effectiveness by timelines alone”, because many factors affect investigation times.

“Nevertheless, the trend of reduction in time taken to complete our criminal and civil penalty investigations over the years attests to our commitment to administer swift enforcement outcomes,” she said. 

Published once every 18 months, the report provides updates on enforcement matters in the financial markets, highlights key outcomes and outlines priorities for the future.

The first report was launched in March 2019 for the reporting period of July 2017 to December 2018.

Responding to TODAY's queries on the factors leading to the shorter investigation times over the years, MAS said that its efficiency in carrying out investigations has been enhanced by streamlining internal processes.

"We have also deepened our expertise and experience, as well as our collaboration with our partners and stakeholders.

"That said, complex cases such as Noble and Hyflux will still take time as such cases involve multiple suspects or issues, or require foreign assistance if suspects and witnesses reside in other jurisdictions."

In the latest report on Wednesday, MAS also revealed that enforcement actions have led to seven criminal convictions, with three individuals jailed and the remaining four fined.

A total of S$2.59 million in financial penalties and compositions were also imposed against one person and 16 financial institutions, of which S$2.4 million was for control breaches related to money laundering or financing terrorism.

Another S$150,000 in civil penalties were also imposed in relation to market rigging by two former trading representatives.

This year's report included a new section, which details selected high-profile cases that the authorities are now examining.

MAS said that the section was “to provide greater transparency” regarding ongoing efforts to pursue complex cases.

UPDATE ON ENVY GLOBAL, HYFLUX 

Among the major cases that MAS gave updates for was one of Singapore’s largest fraud cases involving more than S$1 billion in a nickel trading scheme, relating to Envy Global Trading and the now inactive Envy Asset Management.

The director of the two companies, Ng Yu Zhi, was charged in March last year with cheating and for being a party to fraudulent trading. 

Over a period of more than three years, at least S$1 billion has allegedly been invested in the two companies to purportedly finance nickel trading activities.

Some of Ng’s alleged victims that were named included Ms Pek Siok Lan, general counsel for Temasek International, an investment arm of state investor Temasek Holdings; criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan; and Mr Thio Shen Yi, former president of the Law Society of Singapore.

Ng was also charged with allegedly cheating Envysion Wealth Management — now known as Hui Xun Asset Management (XHAM) — and Vickers Venture Partners (Singapore) (VVPS).

MAS on Wednesday said that it is looking into the latter two companies to ascertain if there had been governance or risk management failure in their conduct of business.

“MAS is reviewing documents obtained from HXAM and VVPS. MAS has also conducted interviews with persons acquainted with the case. Investigations are ongoing.” 

Separately, the authority also revealed that joint investigations are still ongoing for Hyflux, for offences under the Securities and Futures Act as well as the Companies Act.

“The review is an extensive exercise covering the announcements and financial statements issued by Hyflux over a period of eight years between 2011 and 2018 (inclusive),” MAS said.

In June 2020, the police, the Commercial Affairs Department, MAS and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority announced that they were investigating the water treatment firm and its former directors for making suspected false and misleading statements and not complying with accounting standards

The directors being investigated were those who sat on the firm’s board between 2011 and 2018.

On Wednesday, MAS revealed that the authorities have sought advice from industry experts on its investigation findings and are working closely with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to review the evidence.

Related topics

MAS breach financial crime Envy Asset Management Hyflux

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