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European approach is not in Singapore's wider interests

I REFER to the article "1MDB saga: What the public needs to know" (BT, April 18). The writers appear to be advocating that an European approach be adopted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in terms of the disclosure of confidential information in the context of ongoing criminal investigations. I fear that such a course of action could be prejudicial to Singapore's wider interests.

Publishing such confidential information in the public domain runs the risk of exposing Singapore's financial system to unnecessary controversy. This is especially the case in the context of the 1MDB case which created a highly charged political environment in a friendly neighbouring country, which persists to date.

The MAS has already prosecuted persons and institutions accused of complicity and participation in proven wrongdoing. Going further and publishing the minutiae related to alleged malfeasance in the public domain could be unduly exploited by unscrupulous elements here and abroad to tarnish Singapore's image.

The article explicitly refers to "money looted from 1MDB" which is precisely the sort of language that causes public disquiet, and unduly politicises an issue which can be adequately handled in a detached manner by legal and regulatory processes.

Europe is the largest economic entity on earth, in terms of its collective gross domestic product (GDP), and it can afford to adopt broader public disclosure norms in the case of financial regulatory issues than most other countries.

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On the other hand, a nation like Singapore - with its extensive trading relations globally and its status as one of the pre-eminent global centres for wealth management - may find disclosure models adopted by Switzerland and the City of London more relevant than those that prevail in Ireland, Denmark and Estonia referred to in the article. A key element of the current Brexit debate in the UK is focused on the City of London being at variance with regulatory disclosure norms of European regulators.

It is very probable that the MAS has extensively debriefed the relevant financial institutions within Singapore and elsewhere of the specific details of alleged criminality in the 1MDB case. Such action is adequate to maintain the respect that international financial institutions and their clients attach to the MAS, and will ensure that Singapore maintains its attractiveness as a major international financial centre of repute. To add further stipulation for extensive public disclosure would - in my view - be excessive, unnecessary and possibly cause more harm than good.

Arjuna Mahendran

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