The Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (“CDSA”) is the primary legislation which criminalises laundering of benefits from serious criminal offences by individuals and legal entities in Singapore. It is also the source of the Singapore Police Force’s (which includes the Commercial Affairs Department (“CAD”)) and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (“CPIB”)) power to investigate and confiscate benefits from money laundering and other serious offences.
Common CDSA offences
Common CDSA offences brought against an individual are:
- assisting another to retain benefits from criminal conduct (Section 44 CDSA)
- acquiring, possessing, using, concealing or transferring benefits from criminal conduct (Section 47 CDSA)
- failure to lodge report on cross border movements of cash (Section 48C CDSA)
Section 44(1)(a) CDSA: Assisting another to retain benefits from criminal conduct
The elements of an offence under Section 44(1)(a) of the CDSA were discussed and laid out in the High Court’s decision of Ang Jeanette v Public Prosecutor  4 SLR 1 (“Ang Jeanette”). The Appellant, Ang Jeanette (“Ang”), was charged and convicted of five (5) counts of an offence under Section 44(1)(a) of the CDSA for remitting more than S$2 million on various occasions. Acting on her brother’s instructions, Ang took instructions from third parties to receive monies transferred from the United States and remit them to third parties overseas.
The Court held that under Section 44(1)(a) of the CDSA, the prosecution was required to prove:
- that the monies involved were in fact benefits of criminal conduct; and
- that there were reasonable grounds for the accused person to believe that the monies dealt with were the benefits of criminal conduct.
Although Ang was not the mastermind of the transactions, the Court viewed Ang as having actively facilitated the retention of the monies. Ang was sentenced to a total of nine months’ imprisonment for her involvement.
Section 47, CDSA: Acquiring, possessing using, concealing or transferring benefits from criminal conduct
In 2017, Abdul Ghani Tahir (“Abdul Ghani”), became the first person to be prosecuted and convicted in Singapore for offences under the CDSA as a “corporate money mule” (Abdul Ghani bin Tahir v Public Prosecutor  4 SLR 1153). Abdul Ghani was convicted of six (6) charges under Section 47(1)(b) read with Section 59(1)(b) of the CDSA. Under Section 59(1) of the CDSA, an offence is deemed committed by an officer of a body corporate (i.e. a company) if it is proved that the body corporate has committed an offence under the CDSA with the consent or connivance of that officer, or such offence is a result of any neglect of the officer.
Abdul Ghani provided corporate secretarial services, which included incorporating companies on behalf of his clients. Through the introduction of a Romanian individual, Nadia, Abdul Ghani agreed to incorporate four companies in Singapore, which included Kassar Logistics Pte Ltd (“Kassar”) and World Eastern International Pte Ltd (“WEL”). He also agreed to act as the local resident director for all four companies, and opened bank accounts for the companies.
From March 2012, there were several transactions in WEL’s bank account, of which six (6) deposits and six (6) withdrawals became subject of the CDSA charges against Abdul Ghani. He had received seven (7) recall notices from UOB in respect of the six (6) deposits, which Abdul Ghani merely forwarded to Nadia, who did not respond.
The Court held that despite having knowledge of the investigations of Kassar in February 2012 and having expressed concerns of the possibilities of the other companies being involved in illegal activities, Abdul Ghani “neglected to take any active steps to take investigative and/or preventive action, which he ought to have done” when circumstances clearly called for him to do so. The Court further held that the surrounding circumstances “ought to have put [Abdul Ghani] on inquiry that illicit activities were being carried out through WEL, such that [Abdul Ghani] ought to have stepped up his supervision over WEL’s activities”. Abdul Ghani was sentenced to an aggregate term of 12 months’ imprisonment and imposed a fine of S$50,000.
Key amendments to the CDSA
In 2019, the CDSA was amended and a new offence was introduced under Section 47AA. It is now an offence to possess or use property “reasonably suspected” to be benefits of drug dealing or benefits from criminal conduct. With this amendment, charges may be brought against individuals who act as money mules who transport monies linked to criminal conduct for organised syndicates. The maximum penalty for individuals is a fine of S$150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both.
Another key amendment is a presumption under Section 47A(3) of the CDSA which will enable the Singapore Courts to decide, on the basis of evidence presented by the Prosecution, that a serious offence had indeed been committed overseas without having to rely on foreign government officials or experts. This will improve the CAD’s ability to handle and investigate transnational money laundering.
Other case highlights
- In 2017, Malaysian Looi Yu Chong (“Looi”) admitted to collecting over S$1 million from a Singaporean woman retiree who fell prey to a police impersonation scam. Looi’s role in helping the scam syndicate collect money from victims in Singapore landed him a sentence of four years and 10 months’ imprisonment.
- In 2013 the CAD launched an investigation against one Lim Ai Tee (“Lim”) after receiving information that her Singapore bank accounts were being used to receive fraudulent funds derived from suspicious sources. It was revealed that Lim allowed her bank accounts to be used to receive monies in return for monetary rewards, Lim also moved large amounts of cash from Singapore to Malaysia. In total, Lim collected at least S$1.6 million in cash and benefitted around S$16,700 from these transactions. Lim was sentenced to three years’ jail and fined $8,000.
- In 2009, Goh Teck Meng pleaded guilty to two charges under Section 44(1)(a) of the CDSA when it was discovered that he had agreed to an accomplice’s request to help him open a bank account to collect illegal football bets with the promise of 1% commission. Additionally, Goh also recruited ten (10) persons, including his friends, to open more bank accounts for the accomplice’s use. It was later established that the bank accounts were used to collect monies from victims of phone lottery scams, instead of illegal football bets.
Legal advice on CDSA offences
If you believe you may be charged with an offence under the CDSA or you are currently under investigation for a CDSA offence and wish to consult a lawyer, contact us now for a confidential consultation. We have experience acting for and advising clients who faced charges under the CDSA and will be able to counsel you through the process.