Insight-A Singapore wealth manager under fire amid crackdown

Sun Jun 2, 2013 5:36pm EDT
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By Rachel Armstrong and John O'Callaghan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The email landed at a tough time for David Chong, the colorful founder and chairman of Portcullis TrustNet, one of Asia's biggest wealth advisory companies.

By threatening to publish offshore companies and trusts held by his clients, it hit a raw nerve at a company whose customers rely on its discretion. But it also came as the wealth management industry faces a wave of global scrutiny from regulators trying to weed out tax dodgers.

The email from a group of investigative journalists said it wanted to expose how the rich compound the world's economic problems by using offshore tax loopholes to minimize tax payments.

The message struck at the heart of a global debate over the moral divide between savvy tax planning and exploitation of loopholes that critics say mean governments miss out on corporate and individual tax revenues.

Singapore, like other wealth management centers, is in the regulatory spotlight and Chong said the reporters unfairly singled out Portcullis as one of the villains.

"Portcullis sells companies like Victorinox sells knives," said Chong, a lawyer by training who built up Portcullis over 25 years. "It would be ridiculous to blame Victorinox because one of their knives is used to commit a crime," Chong said in a rare interview in Singapore.

Portcullis TrustNet describes itself as Asia's biggest independent group of trust companies, and a one-stop shop for wealthy individuals to manage their money.

Chong defends Portcullis's business and says he believes the firm has complied with the necessary regulations in all the jurisdictions in which it operates.   Continued...

People look at the skyline of the central business district in Singapore in this April 25, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files