Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Aljunied): Sir, I have increasingly been approached by for assistance by residents who face problems opening personal bank accounts. Their applications were rejected by banks either because of that past criminal records, past investigations for financial related crimes, or are currently under criminal investigation resulting in their bank accounts being frozen.
Members of this House would agree that access to basic banking facilities is essential in today’s digitalised society. These individuals are deprived of basic banking activities, such as receiving their salaries. Employers do not usually agree to deposit into their family’s bank accounts and are unwilling to pay them in cash. They also have difficulty receiving Government cash benefits, like GST Vouchers – Cash. Individuals with past criminal records have paid their dues to society and such a deprivation can be an impediment in their efforts to turn over a new leaf.
Similarly, individuals under investigation are deprived of the operation of the maxim “innocent until proven guilty”. These investigations can take any time between several months and years, which is a long time to function without access to basic banking facilities. I understand MAS as been working with the larger retail banks to open limited purpose bank accounts for individuals that banks assess to pose a higher risk of being implicated in financial crimes.
Can I ask the Minister what are the limitations on such accounts? Will the functions of such accounts vary on a case-by-case basis assessment by the banks? Additionally, will the pool of eligible individuals for these accounts include persons who are currently under investigation? This may emerge as a growing problem owing to the increase in bank accounts being frozen during investigations into financial crimes.
Owing to the time sensitivity of this matter, can I ask the Minister what is the progress of the roll-out of these limited purpose bank accounts? Is it generally available to all affected applicants yet? If not, when will it remain available generally?
2 March 2022
Prime Minister’s Office