The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is a highly specialised and competent elite unit of the Singapore Police Force that reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is the principal white-collar crime investigation agency in Singapore and is tasked with the investigation of financial and commercial crimes. The most complex financial crimes are handled by the CAD.
The CAD also works closely with financial institutions, online merchants and government agencies to prevent, deter and detect financial crimes and disrupt scam operations in Singapore. CAD is able to compel institutions such as banks and telecommunication agencies to assist the CAD in their financial investigations. Accordingly, the CAD has the power to freeze or suspend bank accounts, request for telephone call logs, search premises and seize items to aid their investigations.
More importantly, the CAD uses its extensive international network to share intelligence and work with its foreign counterparts to combat transnational financial and commercial crimes such as money laundering and terrorism financing offences.
Since March 2015, the CAD and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have been jointly investigating market misconduct offences such as insider trading and market manipulation under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA). This initiative was prompted by the October 2013 penny stock crash (see below for more details). This new arrangement will allow CAD and MAS to consolidate their investigative resources and expertise will improve the overall effectiveness of market misconduct investigations. Any MAS officer taking part in joint investigations will also have the same criminal powers of investigation as mentioned above as the CAD officers. One example of such joint investigation efforts is the recent probing of CoAssets Group companies for possible offences under the Penal Code and the SFA.
In March 2018, the CAD and MAS announced that its joint investigations arrangement will cover all offences under the SFA and the Financial Advisers Act (FAA) to allow greater efficiency and more effective enforcement of capital markets and financial advisory offences.
Additionally, the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), which was established prior to the opening of casinos in Singapore, works together with the CAD to fine-tune the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism framework, and to share information and red flag indicators relevant to the casino sector. [For more information on violations under the Casino Contract Act, please refer to our article here.
Types of Cases Where the CAD Is Involved
Some examples of the types of cases that the CAD investigates are:
- Corporate fraud cases (e.g. theft, dishonest misappropriation, criminal breach of trust, cheating, dishonest or fraudulent disposition of property or payment of a debt, forgery and falsification of accounts)
- Offences under the Companies Act (e.g. false and misleading statement, false statements, frauds by officers)
- Fraud involving financial institutions
- Domestic and transnational bank fraud
- Investment cases (e.g. Ponzi schemes, Multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes, investment fraud schemes)
- Cryptocurrency cases (e.g. offences under the Payment Services Act 2019 (PSA), such as providing digital payment services without a licence)
- MAS licensing cases (e.g. entities conducting regulated activities without a licence)
- Market misconduct offences (e.g. insider training, market manipulation (stock market, Forex, commodities, trading-related)
- Offences under the SFA (e.g. false trading, market-rigging transactions (e.g. Hin Leong Trading (Pte) Ltd, KS Energy Ltd), market manipulation, making false statements, insider trading)
- Offences under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA) (i.e. money laundering (e.g. acquiring, possessing, using, concealing or transferring benefits of, or assisting another to retain benefits of drug dealing or benefits from criminal conduct)
- Money laundering offences (e.g. structuring, currency exchanges, double – invoicing, bulk cash smuggling, trade-based laundering, disguised shell companies and trust, fictitious owners, round-tripping, black salaries, transaction laundering, undisclosed aggregation, online gaming transfers, cryptocurrency transfers, reverse money laundering, fraudulent encashment)
- Offences under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (e.g. providing or collecting property for terrorist acts, providing property or services to facilitate or carry out terrorist acts or that will benefit terrorists, using or possessing property for terrorist purposes, dealing with property of terrorists or terrorist entity)
Some CAD Case Highlights
- In 2010, following complaints received by the Commissioner of Charities, the CAD commenced investigations into 17 individuals, including church founder, Pastor Kong Hee, for the misuse of charity funds linked to the City Harvest Church. The investigations ultimately led to the conviction of six church leaders for the misappropriation of S$50 million in church funds, under multiple charges of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts, which are offences under the Penal Code.
Offences Under the SFA
- In March 2019, Goh Hin Calm (Goh) was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to intentionally aiding two alleged masterminds, John Soh Chee Wen (Soh) and Quah Su-Ling (Quah), in the largest market manipulation case in Singapore’s history that caused the 2013 penny stock crash that wiped out S$8 billion from the Singapore stock market. Goh was charged with 6 counts under Section 197 of the SFA read with Section 109 of the Penal Code for his role in the unlawful scheme. The investigations were jointly conducted by the CAD and MAS, which included raids of over 50 locations, interviews of more than 70 persons, extensive documentary evidence of over 2 million emails, half a million trade orders, and thousands of telephone records and financial statements. Soh and Quah are charged with a total of 365 counts of offences under the SFA, Penal Code and Companies Act, and their case is ongoing.
- In August 2020, Henry Tan (Tan), founder of tech company Trek 2000 International Limited (Trek 2000), which holds the patent for the thumb drive, was fined S$80,000 for failing to disclose transactions made in 2010 and 2013 between Trek 2000 and “interested persons”, which constituted offences under the SFA. Such “interested persons” included another company wholly owned by Tan and a company which Tan’s son owned 80% of. The CAD had discovered Tan’s offences while it began investigating Trek 2000 in 2016 for separate offences committed by Trek 2000’s management.
- In August 2020, Kris Taenar Wiluan (Wiluan), Indonesian tycoon and chief executive of offshore and marine company KS Energy Ltd, was charged with 112 counts of offences under the SFA relating to false trading and market-rigging transactions. Wiluan was first interviewed by the CAD in the course of its investigations sometime in 2017.
- More recently, the CAD’s investigations into oil trader Hin Leong Trading (Pte) Ltd (Hin Leong), resulted in Hin Leong’s founder, Lim Oon Kuin (Lim), being charged with 2 counts of abetment of forgery for purposes of cheating. Lim is accused of, among others, instigating a Hin Leong employee to forge documents to secure trade financing, and instructing his firm to conceal some US$800 million of trading losses.
Offences Under the CDSA
- 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”. Upon the instruction and request of a Romanian individual, he agreed to incorporate four companies in Singapore, and act as the resident nominee director for all four companies. Bank accounts were also opened for the said companies. Despite having knowledge of investigations of money laundering allegations against one of the companies, Abdul Ghani did not question the activities of the other three companies that were incorporated. Subsequently, several transactions in another one of the four companies’ bank accounts were flagged for suspected money laundering activities. The Court found that, as a local resident director, Abdul Ghani had neglected to take any active steps to investigate into or prevent the illegal activities which the companies were involved in. On appeal, Abdul Ghani was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for his offences.
- In 2019, the CAD successfully prosecuted a Russian national who was based outside Singapore who helped launder more than US$600,000 by setting up shell companies in Singapore and deceiving victims into transferring money into the corporate bank accounts of the shell companies. The accused was convicted of 8 counts of money laundering offences and 22 forgery charges, and finally sentenced to 88 months’ imprisonment. This was the first conviction of a foreign accused person who, while mostly based overseas, worked behind the scenes to exploit Singapore’s financial system.
[Offence Under the PSA]
- [In January 2021, Vivian Lange (Lange), was sentenced to 4 weeks’ imprisonment for providing payment services without a licence, becoming the first person to be convicted for an offence under the PSA. Investigations revealed that on the instruction of an unknown person, Lange received at least 13 fraudulent fund transfers, which were used to purchase Bitcoin that was subsequently transferred to multiple Bitcoin wallets. Lange received a 10% commission for her role.] [Note: first conviction under PSA, but not mentioned that CAD was involved.]
Have You Been Asked to Assist in a CAD Investigation?
As a highly competent and specialised unit of the Singapore Police Force, the CAD’s mission is to prevent, deter and detect financial crimes in Singapore. To do so, the CAD will pursue all credible leads, including requesting for your assistance in the form of interviews to aid their investigations. Failure to attend such interviews upon receiving a written order or notice to do so may result in the CAD officer reporting the matter to a Magistrate who may then issue a warrant ordering you to attend the interview.
It may be wise to contact a lawyer for advice before the commencement of the CAD investigations as in some cases, the CAD can detain you for up to a period of 48 hours. For further information, please refer to our article here.
Alternatively, contact us now for a confidential discussion.