States Times Review (STR) was previously an Australia-based Singapore news media, which has become a personal blog “in response to Singapore’s latest censorship laws”, according to the blog’s Facebook page.
The article, titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target” that was published on 5 November, alleged that Najib Razak, Malaysia’s ex-prime minister who was deeply involved in the 1MDB scandal, signed “unfair agreements” with Lee, Singapore’s current prime minister.
One of those agreements was building the Singapore-Malaysia High Speed Rail when Malaysia was running a debt of RM 1trn ($239bn), in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in money laundering 1MDB money, according to the article, which cited as the source Clare Rewcastle, editor of the London-based investigative journalism news site Sarawak Report.
MAS said in the statement that it believes the article is baseless and defamatory:
“The article ignores the unprecedented and robust actions taken by MAS over the last two years against Singapore-based banks and bankers in relation to their roles in 1MDB related transactions, in most instances ahead of enforcement actions by foreign jurisdictions.
“It also makes false allegations that Singapore was forced to reopen its investigations into 1MDB only after the change in political leadership in Malaysia. Investigations into the 1MDB case had never been closed,” the regulator said.
The regulator has reprimanded and fined several banks and bankers that were involved in the 1MDB scandal, including the lifetime industry bans of three people and the fines of S$700,000 ($505,00) and $900,000 that were imposed on Credit Suisse and UOB, respectively.
The MAS added that Singapore’s law enforcement and regulatory agencies had been cooperating actively with counterparts in Malaysia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the US during the tenure of the previous Malaysian government.
For example, Coutts & Co was fined $6.6m by the Swiss regulator, which has also investigated UBS Group and three other private banks in relation to the 1MDB scandal. Swiss private bank Edmond de Rothschild was also fined $10m by Luxembourg’s financial regulator for its handling of funds reportedly linked to the scandal.
“MAS has placed utmost importance of safeguarding its integrity as a financial regulator and takes seriously any false allegations to the contrary.”