On 7 July 2014, the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) (Amendment) Bill 2014 (the “Bill”) was passed in Parliament. The Bill seeks to amend the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (the “CDSA”) which sets out the money laundering offences in Singapore. The CDSA criminalises the laundering of benefits or proceeds from “predicate offences” prescribed under the Act which include criminal conduct and drug trafficking committed in or outside of Singapore.

The Bill will amend the CDSA to introduce changes to various aspects of the Act and these include:

  • Enabling certain types of foreign tax offences to be treated as foreign predicate offences, whether or not the foreign tax concerned is of a type that is imposed in Singapore.  This amendment will remove the requirement of dual criminality for tax evasion offences covered under the CDSA, enabling the CDSA to recognise a foreign tax evasion offence so long as the offence has been criminalised in the foreign jurisdiction and is committed wilfully with intent to evade tax.
  • Removing the existing requirement for a foreign predicate offence to be evidenced by a certificate issued by a foreign government before the prosecution can proceed against money laundering involving the foreign predicate offence under the CDSA. This will allow for a wider range of evidence to be adduced (for example, foreign court judgments, experts’ statements, statements provided by an appropriate foreign authority) to prove the foreign law which gives rise to the foreign predicate offence.
  • Increasing the maximum term of imprisonment for money laundering offences from seven years to 10 years.
  • Providing for the amount of the cross-border cash movement reporting threshold to be prescribed in subsidiary legislation, instead of being specified in the CDSA. This will allow timely changes to be made to the threshold in response to currency fluctuations. Currently, the CDSA imposes cash reporting requirements on travellers who carry physical currency and bearer negotiable instruments exceeding S$30,000 into or out of Singapore. The threshold will be lowered to S$20,000.
  • Introducing a new Part VIB to implement a cash transaction reporting regime for certain persons involved in certain cash transactions. Such persons will be prescribed by subsidiary legislation issued under the CDSA and will be required to conduct customer due diligence, keep records and file cash transaction reports when they transact with a customer in cash exceeding a certain threshold amount. The Government intends to extend this new regime to precious stones and metal dealers.
  • Formally establishing a Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (the “STRO”) under the CDSA, and conferring certain additional powers on Suspicious Transaction Reporting Officers attached to the STRO to, among other things, obtain relevant information for the purpose of analysing the reports made to the STRO.
  • Extending legal professional privilege under the CDSA to legal counsel. Certain communications and items made, and certain documents prepared, in connection with a legal counsel giving advice to his employer or relating to any legal proceedings in which the employer is or may be a party will be subject to legal privilege.
  • Refining the list of persons currently exempted from the suspicious transaction reporting requirements in section 39 of the CDSA. Persons who are exempted from section 39 will also include:
    • An arbitrator in respect of information which came to his attention in the course of any arbitral proceedings in which he acted as an arbitrator; and
    • A legal counsel acting as such for his employer, or an interpreter or other person who works under the supervision of the legal counsel, in respect of information concerning the employer which is an item subject to legal privilege.

Reference materials

The Bill is available from the Singapore Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg by clicking here.

In addition, please click on the links below to the Ministry of Home Affairs website www.mha.gov.sgto read the speeches delivered at the Second Reading of the Bill by Mr S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry: