World News

Singapore denies money laundering Myanmar leaders

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s prime minister has defended the country against accusations that it is a money-laundering centre for members of Myanmar’s military regime in a CNN interview reported by local media on Saturday.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also said the country could not deny Myanmar leaders who travel to the wealthy island republic for medical treatment as this would be inhumane.

“We don’t play dirty money, we don’t condone money laundering. Our rules against that are as strict as any other financial centre - London, Hong Kong, New York,” Lee said in the CNN interview broadcast late on Friday.

European Union parliamentarians on Tuesday urged the city-state to ease strict bank secrecy laws to avoid becoming a financial haven for organised crime. It also urged Singapore to punish the Myanmar generals that ordered the bloody crackdown on anti-government protests by seizing their assets in Singapore.

“The European Union parliamentarians were in Singapore. They wanted us to open up to them so that they can collect tax for Europeans who have invested in Singapore. That’s a different matter altogether, nothing to do with Myanmar,” Lee said.

Singapore is one of Myanmar’s biggest foreign investors and its trade with the country formerly known as Burma was worth S$1 billion ($680 million) last year.

Lee said denying Burmese leaders medical treatment in Singapore would go “against human nature”.

“I mean, somebody is sick, he wants to come to Singapore, he needs treatment and you’re telling me that I shouldn’t treat him because he’s not a good man? It goes against the Hippocratic Oath of doctors,” he said.

Myanmar junta leader Tan Shwe, 74, stayed in a Singapore hospital in January amid tight security for an undisclosed ailment. Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win, 55, was in Singapore at least twice this year to treat an illness reported to be leukaemia.

$1=1.471 Singapore Dollar