Singapore’s Council for Estate Agencies Probes Property Agents Amid $1 Billion Money Laundering Case

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) in Singapore has initiated investigations into property agents suspected of being involved in property transactions linked to a significant money laundering case that saw approximately $1 billion in assets seized. The CEA, responsible for regulating the real estate agency industry in Singapore, emphasized that non-compliance with anti-money laundering regulations could lead to disciplinary actions.

Following a recent police operation on August 15, at least two real estate agencies reportedly alerted the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (STRO) of the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) regarding certain transactions or activities. However, both the police and CEA have refrained from providing further details on the investigations due to their ongoing nature.

According to sources, about 105 properties, valued at approximately $831 million, have been subjected to prohibition of disposal orders. These properties comprise various real estate assets, including detached bungalows, condominium units, and commercial or industrial spaces. The properties are linked to individuals under investigation, including their spouses and associated companies.

This operation is part of one of Singapore’s largest anti-money laundering initiatives, which has resulted in the arrest and charging of at least 10 foreign nationals. Police have successfully seized assets totaling about $1 billion, encompassing properties, luxury items, vehicles, and gold bars.

The CEA underscored the importance of property agencies and agents conducting thorough due diligence checks on their clients when facilitating property transactions. Agents are mandated to verify clients’ identities, assess the potential risk of money laundering activities, and report any suspicious transactions to the STRO.

In a related development, a property agent pleaded guilty in July 2023 for not adhering to customer due diligence measures required by Singapore’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. The agent was suspended for four months and fined $4,000.