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Over $800k in donations from convicts in $3 billion money laundering case surrendered to authorities

Over $800k in donations from convicts in $3 billion money laundering case surrendered to authorities

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 23 May 2024
Author: Christine Tan

Several charities return to the authorities the donations made by four convicted foreigners.

Several charities that received donations from individuals linked to Singapore’s high-profile money laundering case have surrendered the contributions to the authorities.

The President’s Challenge and Community Chest (ComChest) told The Straits Times on May 18 that they had handed the donations to the police, in line with the Commissioner of Charities’ (COC) recommendations.

ComChest received $30,000 and the President’s Challenge received more than $350,000 from individuals in the case. Both organisations did not identify the donors.

Separately, Sian Chay Medical Institution said it had handed over to the authorities all the donations it received from individuals in the case in October 2023.

From 2020 to 2022, Su Haijin donated $101,000 in total to the social service agency. Su Baolin donated $39,000 in total from 2021 to 2023, while Zhang Ruijin donated $12,000 in 2021.

In an earlier interview, Sian Chay Medical Institution confirmed it had also received a cheque of $100,000 each from Su Haijin, Su Baolin and Zhang Ruijin in 2020, which were then given to the President’s Challenge.

ST reported in October 2023 that at least six charitable organisations and social service agencies had received donations from those involved in the case.

That same month, the COC sent out an advisory to charities urging them to review their donor records from as far back as January 2019, to see if individuals linked to the case had donated money to them.

The charities were also told to consider the potential legal and reputational risks to their organisations, if it comes to light that they had accepted donations from individuals linked to the case.

Since then, more than $800,000 in donations made by four convicted foreigners in the money laundering case have been surrendered to the authorities.

According to court documents, this comprises $401,000 from Su Haijin, $147,800 from Su Baolin, $137,776 from Vang Shuiming, and $122,000 from Zhang Ruijin, making a total of $808,576.

The monies are being either held by the police or Accountant-General’s Department, which is under the Ministry of Finance.

The four men, who hold various foreign nationalities but are all originally from China, had pleaded guilty in April and May.

Vang Shuiming, 43, was sentenced to 13 months and six weeks’ jail, while Su Haijin, 41, and Su Baolin, 42, were given 14 months’ jail.

Zhang Ruijin, 45, was sentenced to 15 months behind bars – the longest imprisonment term in the case so far.

Other charities that received donations from those linked to the case said they have yet to surrender the monies to the authorities, but intend to do so.

A spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation confirmed that the organisation had received a contribution from Su Baolin.

Said the spokesperson: “We are currently working with the Commissioner of Charities on the matter of returning the sum of $14,500 to the Singapore Police Force.”

Lions Befrienders, a welfare organisation that serves the elderly, received a $5,000 donation in 2022 from one of the 10 foreigners arrested during the August 2023 anti-money laundering operation.

Its executive director Karen Wee declined to reveal the donor’s identity, but said the person donated the sum indirectly to Lions Befrienders through a group of individuals who were helping the organisation.

Ms Wee said: “We will forfeit the $5,000 but we are awaiting instructions on how and when to forfeit the money, and whom to give it to. Lions Befrienders will not keep (the money) for our own use.”

Rainbow Centre, a social service organisation for people with disabilities, said it had received $72,450 in total from Vang Shuiming, Su Haijin and Zhang Ruijin.

Its executive director Tan Sze Wee said that since the donations they received are not subject to any seizure by the police, they plan to ring-fence the money for six months starting from March 1, 2024.

Ms Tan said: “If we are not required by the authorities to return the funds, the funds will be channelled towards our welfare fund to assist low-resource families.”

She added that since the case broke, Rainbow Centre has strengthened its processes and donor due diligence to ascertain the legitimacy of donations.

In the October 2023 advisory, the COC had also urged charities to file suspicious transaction reports if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that any cash or in-kind donations may be connected to any criminal activity.

In a ministerial statement that same month, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said some of the local charities which received the donations had ring-fenced the money, while others had lodged police reports and planned to surrender the monies to the police.

Setia Law associate director Victoria Ting said the police may issue an order to freeze assets.

ST understands this is usually done when the assets are suspected to be linked to criminal activities.

In the money laundering case, the police seized or issued prohibition of disposal orders for assets linked to the 10 foreigners arrested in August 2023.

Ms Ting said if an order to freeze assets has been issued, charities are legally obliged not to use or deal with the items.

But if the police do not issue an order, she said the charity may be able to deal with the donations as it would any contribution.

“Just because someone is accused or convicted in this manner does not automatically mean that all his (or) her past donations were derived from tainted sources, such that the charity is absolutely barred from using or dealing with such assets,” added Ms Ting.

Mr Chenthil Kumarasingam, partner at Withers KhattarWong, said donations that are surrendered to the state may be used to fund law enforcement activities or other public interest projects, depending on the specific legal stipulations at the time.

He said: “Surrendered assets are subject to a disposal inquiry to see if there are competing claims.

“After that process is complete, the monies are paid into the Consolidated Fund, and subsequently will be used for government expenditure for the country.”

The Consolidated Fund is like a bank account held by the Government.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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