The Singapore Police Force (SPF) only freezes bank accounts where there is reason to suspect it is involved in illicit activities, including scams, Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said in Parliament on Sep. 18.
SPF does not track whether a bank account that has been frozen on suspicion of illicit activities is the owner's sole account, Sun added.
SPF does not record number of applications made to court for accessing money from frozen accounts
For people whose accounts are frozen, they can make an application to the courts to withdraw money for reasonable living or other legitimate expenses, she added.
In addition, the SPF does not record the number of such applications to the court.
Bank accounts are unfrozen by the court when they are subsequently found to not be involved in criminal activity, and are no longer required for the purposes of investigation, or other court proceedings.
The SPF also does not track the time taken to unfreeze bank accounts when investigations have been completed.
Sun was responding to several questions raised by Member of Parliament (MP) Sharael Taha, about the total number of bank accounts frozen by the police to date because of suspicion regarding scam activities, and the number of applications made to the courts to access funds in frozen bank accounts for basic expenses.
Sharael also asked about the average time taken from the completion of an investigation to the eventual unfreezing of a bank account.
Over 16,700 bank accounts frozen in 2022
Sun said that the police only freezes bank accounts where there is reason to suspect it is involved in illicit activities, including scams.
She also referred Sharael to the SPF's websites about the number of bank accounts frozen each year.
According to a news release by the SPF in February 2023, the Anti-Scam Command (ASC) has frozen more than 16,700 bank accounts since it began operations in March 2022, and has recovered more than S$146.6 million of scam proceeds in 2022 alone.
People whose bank accounts are frozen can apply to withdraw money for basic expenses
Sharael also cited the case of an individual whose bank account has been frozen for more than six months, and asked if the Ministry of Home Affairs could consider at least providing information to an affected individual so that they can apply for an exemption for daily living expenses.
In response, Sun said that under Section 35 (8) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), the holder of a frozen bank account can submit an application to the court to assess their funds for the payment of basic expenses, including any payment for food, rent, the discharge of a mortgage, medical-related matters, taxes, insurance premiums and public utility charges, among others.
Sun then told Sharael that if he came across any residents with such difficulties, he should ask such members of the public to approach their Investigation Officer, and to also refer the person to Section 35 (8) of the CPC, so that they may know how to still access their funds for daily expenses.
Top left photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash, right screenshot via MCI