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Suspects nabbed in money laundering case can be held without bail until police probe is over: Lawyers

SINGAPORE – Suspects arrested for serious crimes, including forgery for the purpose of cheating, can be held without bail until police complete their investigations, lawyers said. Examples of non-bailable crimes include capital offences such as murder and drug trafficking.

The court may also not grant bail to those charged with a bailable offence if there is reason to believe they will not turn up for the scheduled hearing or investigations when told to do so and will not submit to custody.

More than three weeks have passed since 10 foreigners, who are all believed to be originally from China, were arrested on Aug 15 in connection with a money laundering probe that saw police seize control of more than $1.8 billion in assets.

Lawyers said suspects can be held for up to 48 hours by the police before they are charged in court or brought before a magistrate. Any further detention is then decided by the judge.

There are exceptions, and these largely relate to national security issues.

For example, an individual can be detained under the Internal Security Act for up to two years, said Mr John Lim, managing director of LIMN Law. He added that extensions of up to the same period of time is allowed under the same law.

Mr Azri Imran Tan, partner at IRB Law, said that unless the accused person is charged with a non-bailable offence, bail must be offered as a right.

“If the offence is non-bailable, the court retains the discretion as to whether he should be released on bail. The onus is then on the accused person to show why he should be granted bail. For example, in the case where an accused person is a high flight risk, bail may not be offered,” he said, adding that prolonged remand may also be needed for complex investigations.

The individuals in the money laundering probe have been denied bail since they were initially charged with various offences on Aug 16.

Three of them – the only woman among the 10, Lin Baoying, her lover Zhang Ruijin and Su Baolin – have been slapped with forgery for the purpose of cheating charges, a non-bailable offence.

The court agreed with the prosecution, which had raised concerns over possible collusion, interference with investigations and flight risks, with some of the suspects holding substantial assets overseas.

Mr Daniel Goh, managing director at Characterist law firm, said the court will consider factors such as whether the accused is a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore, or domiciled in Singapore.

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Other considerations include the accused’s background, his association with other individuals, the likely sentence he will receive on conviction as well as the strength of the prosecution’s evidence, Mr Goh added.

LIMN Law’s Mr Lim said the prosecution can apply for the accused to be further remanded for not more than eight days at a time for investigation purposes, if it appears likely that further evidence may be obtained by a remand.

Vang Shuiming, also known as Wang Shuiming, had appealed in the High Court to have the State Courts’ order to deny him bail revoked. The 42-year-old Turkish national currently faces one forgery charge and four money laundering charges.

On Sept 5, Justice Vincent Hoong dismissed his bid to be released on bail.

Mr Lim said the High Court had considered the stage of which the investigations were at and found there was justification for continued remand based on the need to conduct further investigations into a complex case.

The High Court had also considered the risk of collusion because of the connection between the suspect and other persons wanted by the police, added Mr Lim.

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