Friday, March 22, 2013

Govt denies claims S’pore facilitates tax evasion

Lawyer’s allegations in online video that the Republic withholds information from Malaysia ‘simply false’
SINGAPORE — The Government has rubbished claims made in an online video about corrupt land deals in Sarawak, in which a lawyer alleged that Singapore facilitates tax evasion in Malaysia by withholding information requested by the Malaysian government.
In response to media queries, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said last night that the claims are “simply false”.
The video by non-governmental organisation Global Witness, which was posted on YouTube on Monday, showed investigators posing as foreign investors interested in buying land in Sarawak as they recorded snippets of their conversations with Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s cousins and lawyers.
In the video, which has gathered over 440,000 views as of yesterday, a lawyer claimed that it was possible to avoid paying taxes on property transactions in full to the Malaysian government by making payment into accounts in Singapore.
Although it was illegal, the Singapore Government would tell the Malaysian government “nothing”, the lawyer claimed, adding that “they (Singapore) are the new Switzerland”.
The MAS and MOF said that “contrary to what was claimed in the video, Singapore has, to date, provided fully the information requested by Malaysia for tax purposes”.
“The two countries have had a good working relationship on tax matters, and continue to build on this relationship to strengthen cooperation,” said the MAS and MOF.
“In addition, Singapore has designated a wide range of crimes as predicate offences to money laundering — including corruption, bribery and fraud. This is in line with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.”
Singapore “has been and remains able to provide mutual legal assistance to the fullest extent permitted under our laws where there are requests from Malaysia”, they added.

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