19 Canninghill Piers units, S$26 million South Beach penthouse linked to associates of money-laundering suspects

Sep 22, 2023

ASSOCIATES of the 10 foreigners arrested so far in the multi-billion-dollar money-laundering case bought several units on the same floor or stack at various luxury condominiums in Singapore.

The Business Times (BT) discovered 19 units at Canninghill Piers purchased by two foreign nationals whose names match those found in a list of 34 individuals. The list was sent by the Ministry of Law to members of the Gem Traders Association of Singapore.

Ten of the individuals have been arrested for their suspected involvement in money laundering and forgery, including Vang Shuiming, 42, who is said to have financed the purchase of 10 units at Canninghill Piers.

On Wednesday (Sep 20), the police said prohibition of disposal orders have been issued against more than 110 properties and 62 vehicles, totalling over S$1.2 billion in estimated value.

The 19 units at Canninghill Piers found by BT to be linked to the suspects’ associates are estimated to be worth almost S$85 million. The units found ranged from the seventh to 23rd storeys.

Ten units were in the same stack. They were transacted between S$5.4 million and S$5.5 million each, and are believed to be four-bedroom units, as they are 182 square metres in size.

The remaining nine units, which appear from their size to be three-bedders, belonged to two different stacks and were sold for between S$3.1 million and S$3.3 million each.

Canninghill Piers is a luxury integrated development coming up on the former Liang Court site in River Valley, built by City Developments Ltd (CDL) and CapitaLand Development. The project was first marketed in November 2021, chalking up S$1.18 billion in total sales over its launch weekend and moving 77 per cent of the project’s 696 units.

BT also found six units at Gramercy Park under the names of Su Haijin, Lin Baoying, Su Baolin and one associate.

The first three individuals are currently in remand.

Two of the six units in Gramercy Park belong to the associate and another two belong to Su Haijin.

According to Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) caveat data, the associate bought a 1,959 square foot (sq ft) unit in February 2018 for S$6.4 million. It is next to a 1,292 sq ft unit owned by Su Haijin, who bought the property for S$4.5 million in May 2018. Both units are on the 21st floor.

The second unit owned by the associate is on the same storey as well.

The other unit owned by Su Haijin is one of four penthouses at Gramercy Park. The 5,533 sq ft duplex penthouse spans levels 23 and 24, and has five bedrooms and its own swimming pool.

BT previously reported that CDL sold the penthouse for S$16.88 million in 2017 to a buyer understood to be a Chinese citizen who had recently set up an IT company in Singapore.

Su Haijin, a Cypriot national, previously held a Chinese passport, and is the director of Yihao Cyber Technologies, which was incorporated in 2017.

Three units at South Beach Residences, an integrated development at Beach Road, have been linked to Lin and two other associates.

A unit owned by one of the associates is the only super penthouse in the mixed-development project. BT first reported in 2018 that the 6,728 sq ft super penthouse sold for S$26 million, or S$3,864 psf.

The five-bedroom unit spans three levels – 41, 42 and a rooftop – with a pool overlooking the Marina Bay area.

Property consultants BT spoke to said it is uncommon for a single individual or group to buy multiple units in a single development, although there have been such transactions by ultra-wealthy buyers.

In April 2021, a Taiwanese family bought all 20 units at Eden for S$293 million. The freehold luxury condominium, at 2 Draycott Park, was developed by Swire Properties.

Last year, BT also reported that an Indonesian family was in exclusive due diligence to buy a stack of 22 apartments at Wing Tai Holdings’ Draycott Eight condominium. The deal did not materialise.

People who buy all the units on the same floor could be doing so for privacy, said Nicholas Mak, chief research officer of property portal Mogul.sg.

“If you and your family own all the units on a given floor, no stranger should be on the floor unless the stranger has good reasons (to be there). Any stranger on that floor will be quickly noticed,” he said.

“Those who wish to keep their activities (away) from the public eye may either buy or rent a secluded landed property, or, for non-landed, contiguous units,” said Alan Cheong, Savills Singapore’s executive director of research and consultancy.

High-net-worth individuals buying multiple units in a development may also view the property as having strong growth potential, either due to locational or architectural attributes, said Lee Sze Teck, senior director for data analytics at Huttons Asia.

James Lim, a property agent who specialises in luxury condos, said the properties linked to the money-laundering case are “trophy developments and iconic projects buyers may want to own”.

Buyers of multiple units may get higher priority in the queue to select the choicest units, or obtain a discount from the developer, Mak said.

In some cases, buyers purchase an entire floor or multiple units to create large-format units, which are limited in Singapore, said Lee.

It may also be possible to work with the developer to create a private floor just for their use, he said.

Since Jun 28 this year, developers have had to comply with new rules the URA has put in place to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing in real estate.

According to Section 4.2.2 of these guidelines, developers must consider all relevant risk factors, including the number of transactions each year for high-priced units as well as multiple units within the same project by a single purchaser.

William Lai, chief executive officer of property data-analytics company Amicus, said: “I believe the reason why this clause was specifically introduced is (that) there were buyers of multiple properties in a single project.”

Amicus is working with several developers to track such red flags, as well as other telltale signs – for example, whether individuals hold “golden passports” or do not lodge caveats for their purchases, Lai said.

He added that it is a standard – although not mandatory – practice for a buyer to lodge a caveat to protect their interest in the property, especially before the title deed is issued.

“Some purchasers, to avoid disclosure that they bought the property, especially for units under construction, may opt not to file a caveat,” he said, adding that it will be a few years before the title carries their name, between the launch of sale and legal completion.

“When it is a cash purchase, there is no bank to insist on the filing of (a) caveat.”