A Nation Cheated selling fast

Dr Chee Soon Juan’s latest book A Nation Cheated is selling fast even though a few bookstore chains refuse to distribute it.

Borders, an American company, had previously indicated that it didn’t want to sell the book because of “cultural sensitivities” whereas Times, a Government owned book chain, the MPH and Popular bookstores have not responded to enquiries about distribution.

Only Kinokuniya and Select Books, a small retail outlet at Tanglin Shopping Centre, are carrying the book. And sales have been brisk. Two weeks into the first order, Kinokuniya has already made a second order.

So if you haven’t already bought a copy, get one today. Alternatively you can write to speakup@yoursdp.org to order a copy.

We highlight here an excerpt from the book about Singapore being a money-laundering hub of which organisations like the Transparency International is taking note and the Tax Justice Network is scrutinisng.

Former chief economist at Morgan Stanley, Andy Xie, gave a little more insight into another method of how Singapore creates wealth. Xie had written an email to his colleagues that Singapore was not the success story that everyone thinks it is, calling the city-state an economic failure dependent on illicit money from Indonesia and China, “Actually, Singapore’s success came mostly from being the money laundering center for corrupt Indonesian businessmen and government officials.”

The 46 year-old economist born in Shanghai, with a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the observation after attending the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings which was held in Singapore in September 2006. Xie added that “To sustain its economy, Singapore is building casinos to attract corruption money from China.” Morgan Stanley very quickly relieved Xie of his position which he had held for nine years.

Financial analyst and Singapore observer, Michael Backman, whom Goh Chok Tong once lauded as “an expert in overseas Chinese” in his 1998 National Day Rally speech, added that “Singapore is working hard at making itself more attractive to Chinese mainlanders, be they tourists or individuals, with funds to park…Casinos are being set up. There has even been an influx of mainland Chinese prostitutes into Singapore’s quasilegal sex industry.”

These funds, according to observers that Backman cites, are not always clean. One goes to the extent of saying, “Singapore has truly become the global centre for parking ill-gotten gains. The private banking teams are huge and in practice ask almost no questions.”

Another interviewee said that an acquaintance who made US$13 million from deals in Indonesia was not enquired as to how the money was obtained despite obviously working in a job that would not have allowed such amounts to have been earned.

“Russians, mainland Chinese and Indonesians are pouring money into Singapore. High-end property has risen 30-50 percent in the last 18 months or so,” another says. Singaporean officials make all the right noises when it comes to monitoring illicit funds. Through all this the Singapore Government remains largely uncooperative when it comes to meeting international expectations and obligations on money laundering.

In 2006, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini reported that the number of “super-rich” Indonesians living in Singapore is a staggering 18,000 (out of 55,000) whose wealth amounts to approximately US$87 billion. Much of this wealth, complains the Indonesian Government, has come from illegal activities in Indonesia.

Indonesia has repeatedly proposed the signing of a memorandum of understanding about cooperation with Singapore in handling money laundering. The effort went unrequited until 2006. Whatever information that the Indonesians needed to pursue the financial suspects had to be solicited from the US.