Two Cypriot passport holders were arrested in Singapore as part of a suspected money laundering bust it emerged on Thursday, spurring Cyprus’ interior ministry to assure it would assess the case and revoke their citizenship if necessary.
Authorities in Singapore seized assets including properties and luxury cars worth about 1 billion Singapore dollars (€498 million). The group of ten are suspected of laundering proceeds from “overseas organised crime activities including scams and online gambling”.
One of the Cypriots, aged 40, jumped out of the second-floor balcony in an attempt to escape the authorities. He was later found hiding in a drain but had sustained injuries in the fall and was taken to hospital, according to Reuters.
From his home, police seized cash amounting to more than S$2.1m (€1.4m), four bank accounts with more than S$6.7m (€4.5m) and ownership documents of 13 properties and five vehicles with an estimated value of more than S$118 million (€80m).
The two Cypriots were named as Su Haijin, aged 40 and Wang Dehai, 34. The former faces charges of resisting lawful apprehension and the latter for one count of money laundering.
The interior ministry said it would monitor the case closely and if any information surfaced indicating a violation of citizenship conditions, it would be revoked immediately.
It specified authorities in Cyprus had not received any requests for help from Singapore as of yet, but the government was willing to assist in any way possible should it be required.
Those arrested were aged between 31 and 44, with passports from Cyprus, China, Turkey, Cambodia, and Vanuatu. Nine are reportedly men and one is a woman.
More than 400 police officers were involved in the raids which began on Tuesday from the Orchard Road shopping belt to the resort island of Sentosa. The efforts have been described as one of the largest anti-money laundering operations carried out in Singapore.
The raids on at least nine locations netted assets totalling a staggering S$1bn (€0.7 bn), police said. These included 94 properties, bank accounts with S$110m (€74m), 50 vehicles, stacks of cash amounting to more than S$23m (€15.5m), hundreds of luxury handbags and watches, fistfuls of jewellery and two gold bars.
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.
Akel MP Irene Charalambidou said she has asked for a full briefing from the interior ministry.
“The international stigmatisation of our country as a result of the abuse behind the golden passports should be immediately managed by the competent minister, so their passports are revoked.”
She specified she was waiting to hear if the interior ministry would be revoking the passports – alluding to the idea they must have purchased the passports under the controversial citizenship by investment scheme.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it was taking the case seriously and has contacted the financial institutions “where the potentially tainted funds have been identified”.
The Central Bank of Cyprus had not been contacted by Singaporean authorities, the Cyprus Mail learned. However, sources explained such matters are usually dealt with by the justice ministry or the police financial intelligence unit.
David Chew, director of commercial affairs at the police force, told Reuters 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.