By Xinghui Kok
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's police said they have seized S$1 billion ($734.32 million) in assets from a gang of foreigners laundering proceeds from organised crime, including plush bungalows in the most sought-after addresses, bundles of cash, luxury cars, jewellery, handbags and gold bars.
In one of its biggest money-laundering cases, police said 400 officers fanned out across Singapore on Tuesday and launched simultaneous raids on residences across the city-state, from the Orchard Road shopping belt to the resort island of Sentosa.
The raids on at least nine locations netted assets totalling a staggering S$1 billion, police said. These included 94 properties, bank accounts with S$110 million, 50 vehicles, stacks of cash amounting to more than S$23 million, hundreds of luxury handbags and watches, fistfuls of jewellery and two gold bars.
At least 10 foreigners aged between 31 and 44 were arrested, including one man who jumped out of the second-floor balcony of his bungalow in a tony neighbourhood and was found hiding in a drain.
The man, a 40-year-old Cypriot national, sustained injuries in the fall and was taken to hospital. From his home, police seized cash amounting to more than S$2.1 million, four bank accounts with more than S$6.7 million and ownership documents of 13 properties and five vehicles with an estimated value of more than S$118 million.
The other arrested people included citizens from China, Cambodia, Cyprus and Vanuatu. One woman was among them.
Twelve people were assisting police in their investigations while another eight were wanted. Police said all those in the case were foreigners and were linked to each other.
A police statement said the group was suspected to be laundering proceeds from overseas organised crime, including scams and online gambling.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it takes this case seriously and has contacted the financial institutions "where the potentially tainted funds have been identified".
David Chew, director of commercial affairs at the police force, said Singapore has "zero tolerance" for being used as a safe haven for criminals or their families and for banking facilities to be abused.
"Our message to these criminals is simple - if we catch you, we will arrest you. If we find your ill-gotten gains, we will seize them. We will deal with you to the fullest extent of our laws," said Chew.
Singapore has in recent years seen an influx of foreign money. Latest figures from the central bank show that total assets under management in Singapore rose 16% in 2021 to S$5.4 trillion, compared with a global increase of 12% to $112 trillion the same year.
($1 = 1.3618 Singapore dollars)
(Reporting by Xinghui Kok; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)