CORRECTION: Singapore star rises as Switzerland stumbles

Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:58am EST
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(Corrects story published on Dec. 14 to remove reference in paragraph 14 to IMF list that has been discontinued)

By Neil Chatterjee and John O'Donnell

SINGAPORE/ FRANKFURT (Reuters) - As pressure mounts on Switzerland's flagship bank UBS and the country's secrecy code comes under fire from the United States and Germany, Singapore's star as a haven for the super-rich is rising fast.

The sun-drenched Asian city-state, with the highest density of millionaires in the world, is seeing wealth management prosper as the U.S. and Europe grapple with the worst slump in a generation.

Singapore's strict bank secrecy rules seem likely to be spared an assault similar to the one that Berne is defending now, following the charging of UBS's wealth management chief for helping Americans hide money.

With close ties to powerful Asia, Singapore is in a stronger position to resist pressure from the U.S. than rival Switzerland or Alpine retreat Liechtenstein, which recently partially surrendered bank secrecy.

"It's a wealth center," said Martyn Schilte, a manager in charge of selling million dollar supercars in Singapore. "If you look at the type of client we sell to, it's people with a net worth of $50 million-plus."

The city-state has its sights on attracting the world's wealthy to its palm-tree-lined coastline where some apartments come with a private yacht berth. Its plan is working.

As Asia's elite move billions to the country, assets under management soared by a third last year to more than $800 billion.   Continued...