MAS files police report against author of 'baseless' States Times Review article

SINGAPORE: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has filed a police report over an online article that it said was false, defamatory and “impugned its integrity”.

The report was filed against the author of an article published on Monday (Nov 5) on the States Times Review, an alternative news website, the central bank said in a statement on Friday.

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The Singapore Police Force confirmed that a report was lodged in a case of alleged criminal defamation. Investigations are ongoing. 

READ: IMDA orders States Times Review to take down article linking PM Lee to 1MDB scandal

The article, titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target”, alleged that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in laundering the funds of Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Friday said the article added a “nasty and malicious twist” to bilateral issues that had been made public and contained “absurd allegations”.

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“It brings in 1MDB, it brings in (former) prime minister Najib, and says that our PM and Singapore Government were corrupt and complicit in the money laundering on 1MDB, and that that is why Singapore got favourable deals and Malaysia was soft on water price (and) gave us a good deal on HSR. Absurd allegations,” he told reporters at the Treasury.

He said the Government is taking the incident very seriously and that the police would take action against all involved based on investigations and advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

“I think when you make allegations of corruption, money laundering against the Prime Minister and the Government of Singapore … of course, we take this very seriously,” Mr Shanmugam said.

ARTICLE “BASELESS” AND “MALICIOUS”: MAS

The central bank called the article “baseless and defamatory”, and said it “made statements that were false and malicious and impugned the integrity of MAS as a financial regulator”.

“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 said.

“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 state fund had never been closed, said the central bank.

“At its Annual Report Press Conferences in 2016 and 2017, MAS had made clear that it would not hesitate to investigate any new leads or evidence relating to 1MDB-related fund flows,” it said. “This was reiterated in the public statement jointly issued by MAS, the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Singapore Police Force on Jun 8, 2018.”

In addition, Singapore authorities had also cooperated with their counterparts in Malaysia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the US during the tenure of the previous Malaysian government, added MAS.

“MAS has placed utmost importance on safeguarding its integrity as a financial regulator, and takes seriously any false allegations to the contrary,” it said.

​​​​IMDA ISSUES TAKEDOWN NOTICE

Separately, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said it has issued a notice to States Times Review to take down the article by 5pm on Friday.

If it fails to do so, access to the website will be restricted. The States Times Review refused to take down the article, it said in a Facebook post at about 6pm on Friday.

“IMDA has assessed that the article undermined public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore Government and is objectionable on grounds of public interest, and would therefore constitute prohibited content under IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice,” it said in a statement.

IMDA has also asked Facebook to deny access to a post sharing the article.

1MDB is at the centre of a corruption scandal which earlier this month saw the United States unveiling criminal charges against Malaysian financier Jho Low and two former Goldman Sachs bankers.

READ: US charges Jho Low, former Goldman bankers for 1MDB
READ: Jho Low denies wrongdoing after US charges over 1MDB scandal

Low and the former bankers are accused of conspiring to launder billions of dollars from the fund and bribing officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has also been hit by numerous charges linked to the scandal, including charges for money laundering, graft and criminal breach of trust.


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