When police showed up at Su Haijin’s lavish apartment in Singapore one early morning in August, he leapt from his second-floor balcony. The ethnic-Chinese businessman was found hiding in a drain with broken legs. The police meanwhile arrested nine other suspects in what Singapore has described as one of the world’s biggest money-laundering cases. It has since seized or frozen more than $2bn in luxury properties, cars, gold bars and cash.
The case is part of a broader campaign by Asian governments to counter a huge surge in money-laundering linked to organised crime. This criminal tsunami has roots in illicit online gambling by Chinese punters, much of it organised in South-East Asia by ethnic-Chinese gangs. In recent years the gangsters have also moved into other illegal activities, especially online scams. Police in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as Singapore, have recently raided casinos and scam-shops to arrest and grab the assets of those responsible.