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OCBC phishing scam: Only 9 out of 120 money mules charged

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said this was due to limitations in existing laws.

Unknown caller show on mobile phone screen, illustrating a story on the OCBC phishing scam.
Only nine out of more than 120 suspected money mules were charged in the OCBC phishing scam due to limitations in existing laws. (PHOTO: Getty) (B4LLS via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Only nine out of more than 120 suspected money mules were charged in the OCBC phishing scam that occurred between December 2021 and January 2022 due to the limitations of current laws.

This was revealed in parliament on Tuesday (9 May) by Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo during a bill amendment reading for the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act and the Computer Misuse Act.

Teo said in her speech that more than 120 local bank accounts were used to receive the scam victims' monies. There were 790 victims in the case with total losses amounting to S$13.7 million.

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She added that between 2020 and 2022, scammers exploited more than 38,000 bank accounts to launder their proceeds from scam victims in Singapore and more than 19,000 money mules were investigated by the police over the same period.

Under current laws, Teo said that the existing limitations make it difficult to take the money mules to task as it requires the prosecution to prove that the money mule had knowledge or reasonable grounds to believe that the monies transacted through his bank account are linked to criminal activity.

"As a result of these difficulties, of the 19,000 money mules investigated by Police from 2020 to 2022, fewer than 250 money mules were eventually prosecuted," said Teo.

Teo added that it has also been challenging to prove the wrongful intention of those who give up their Singpass credentials under existing laws like the Computer Misuse Act.

"Clearly, there is a gap that has allowed money mules to continue abetting scammers at little cost to themselves. Why should they be deterred if they can evade prosecution by simply claiming ignorance?" said Teo.

The government is proposing two sets of amendments to the aforementioned laws in order to set guardrails on the use of bank and Singpass accounts.

Additionally, the proposed amendments will empower the police to "act more effectively against those who blatantly ignore these guardrails and abuse, or allow to be abused, their bank accounts and Singpass credentials to perpetrate scams and other crimes".

Scam victims in Singapore lost a total of S$660.7 million in 2022, which was up 4.5 per cent from S$632 million the year before.

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