She and her 19-year-old sister were convicted of helping fraudsters – whom their mother met on a dating app – launder almost $1 million from scam victims.
The sisters have yet to be sentenced.
In a separate case, a 47-year-old woman was charged in court on March 1 for possessing $290,000 in criminal proceeds linked to Internet love scams.
In a reply to Mr Wee during the budget debate, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said a large proportion of investigations into money mules do not result in prosecutions due to the difficulty of proving the money mule’s intent to help scam syndicates.
To address the issue, he added that amendments will be made to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes Act (CDSA) in the fourth quarter of this year to allow money-laundering offences to be made out at lower levels of culpability.
Criminal lawyers said there are two types of scam money mules – young people looking for easy money, and lonely women emotionally manipulated in a love scam.
Several lawyers have come across cases where the money mules ignored warnings by the police to stop their involvement in the scam.
Referring to young money mules, Ms Diana Ngiam from Quahe Woo and Palmer said: “Usually, at first, they say they didn’t know that the bank account was going to be used in a scam; they just wanted the easy money.”
Further probing often reveals they decided to set aside their suspicions for short-term gains.
“They don’t think of the long-term consequences if they’re caught,” she added.
Mr Cory Wong from Invictus Law said the mules do not need to know the reason for receiving money in their accounts to be charged with an offence.
“Loosely speaking, it is not whether you actually knew, but whether you should have known,” he added.
The Ministry of Home Affairs told ST that it is looking into introducing new provisions to the CDSA to impose obligations on individuals to handle financial transactions with more accountability and vigilance.
“The intent is to deter individuals from acting as money mules, by making persons who fail to conduct transactions with due care liable for an offence,” said the ministry.
Current measures to prevent young people from getting involved in scams include public education efforts by the police through advisories, social media and the media.
The authorities also work with banks to incorporate advisories when clients open accounts.
Mr Wee, who previously held senior positions in banks, said financial institutions can go further by investigating or interviewing younger clients applying to open accounts, especially joint accounts with an unrelated person.
“The bank will have to ask in a detailed manner what the source of funds will be and what the level of transaction is that will flow through the account.
“This is one defence mechanism that banks or the Monetary Authority of Singapore can impose to make sure that the account is opened for the right purposes and track irregular account activities.”