Singapore may face U.S. challenge on bank secrecy laws

Neil Chatterjee & Kevin Lim

Singapore may face political pressure from the United States over its role as a financial centre for rich foreigners, the country’s prime minister said on Friday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told journalists at a lunch hosted by Singapore’s Foreign Correspondents Association that U.S. pressure on some European countries to lighten banking secrecy laws and open their books to greater scrutiny may lead to more European money flowing into Singapore in the short term.

“But I expect Singapore to come under pressure too,” he said in response to a question on whether pressure on countries like Switzerland and Liechtenstein will help Singapore.

Singapore’s government has previously denied suggestions that the country is a tax haven. It has strict bank secrecy laws and has been promoting itself as a rival financial centre to Hong Kong to attract banks such as UBS, Credit Suisse and Citigroup to manage money for rich local and foreign clients.

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