Domestic legislation

Domestic law

Identify your jurisdiction’s money laundering and anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations. Describe the main elements of these laws.

Singapore’s legal framework for combating money laundering is contained in a patchwork of legal instruments, the main elements of which are:

  • the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA): this statute criminalises money laundering and imposes the requirement for persons to file suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and make a disclosure whenever physical currency exceeding S$20,000 are carried into or out of Singapore;
  • the Organised Crime Act 2015 (OCA): this statute criminalises the commission by organised criminal groups of serious offences, including money laundering, and deprives persons involved in such organised crime activity of any benefits derived from it;
  • the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act (MACMA): this statute sets out the framework for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters (see question 28); and
  • legal instruments issued by regulatory agencies (such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), in relation to financial institutions (FIs)) imposing requirements to conduct customer due diligence (CDD).
Investigatory powers

Describe any specific powers to identify proceeds of crime or to require an explanation as to the source of funds.

To facilitate the investigation of offences, enforcement authorities in Singapore are generally conferred powers of investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) as well as under any specific legislation creating the offence. Authorised officers under the CDSA may also draw upon investigative powers conferred under Part V of the CDSA, which relate to powers to gather information and to enter and search premises.

Production order

Authorised officers under the CDSA may apply to a court for a production order directing a person to produce any material to the authorised officer for him or her to take away or to give the authorised officer access to the material. A court may make a production order under section 30(2) of the CDSA if it is satisfied that it is reasonable to suspect that a specified person has carried on or has benefited from drug dealing or from criminal conduct, that it is reasonable to believe that the material is likely to be of substantial value (whether by itself or together with other material) to the investigation and is not protected by legal privilege, and that it is reasonable to believe that the production of the material is in the public interest.

Where a production order is sought against an FI under section 31(2) of the CDSA, the grounds for seeking the order remain the same although the order may only be applied for and be enforced by the Public Prosecutor and persons authorised by him or her, and such proceedings shall be heard in camera rather than by way of a public hearing. Where a production order is issued against an FI, section 31(5) of the CDSA provides that compliance by the FI with the order is not to be treated as a breach of any restriction against disclosure imposed by law, contract or rules of professional conduct, and no action is to be taken against the FI that in good faith complies with the production order.

Search order

Under section 34(1) of the CDSA, authorised officers are also empowered to apply to court for a search warrant that authorises them to enter and search the premises, particularly in circumstances including where a production order in relation to material on the premises has not been complied with. Where an authorised officer has entered premises in the execution of a warrant issued under section 34, he or she may also seize and retain any material, other than items subject to legal privilege, which is likely to be of substantial value to the investigation for the purpose of which the warrant was issued.

Money laundering

Criminal enforcement

Which government entities enforce your jurisdiction’s money laundering laws?

The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is a department within the Singapore Police Force (SPF) that has the principal responsibility for investigating and taking enforcement action in respect of money laundering and other white-collar crimes.

The CAD enforces the AML regime through detection of money laundering activities, the investigation and prosecution of money laundering offences and the seizure and confiscation of illegal proceeds. Singapore’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (STRO), which is a unit within the CAD.

The CAD works closely with other SPF units and law enforcement agencies, such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Officers of both the CPIB and CNB are authorised under the CDSA to investigate money laundering offences.

Defendants

Can both natural and legal persons be prosecuted for money laundering?

Yes.

The offence of money laundering

What constitutes money laundering?

The term ‘money laundering’ is not used as such within the CDSA.

Part VI of the CDSA criminalises the laundering of proceeds generated by criminal conduct and drug trafficking via the following offences:

  • the assistance of another person in retaining, controlling or using the benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct under an arrangement (whether by concealment, removal from jurisdiction, transfer to nominees or otherwise) (section 43(1)/44(1));
  • the concealment, conversion, transfer or removal from the jurisdiction, or the acquisition, possession or use of benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct (section 46(1)/47(1));
  • the concealment, conversion, transfer or removal from the jurisdiction of another person’s benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct (section 46(2)/47(2));
  • the acquisition, possession or use of another person’s benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct (section 46(3)/47(3)); and
  • the possession or use of any property that may be reasonably suspected of being benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct, without a satisfactory account as to how the property had been occasioned (section 47AA(1)).

Mens rea

Strict liability is imposed for offences under sections 46(1) and 47(1) on the basis that the defendant is the author of the underlying predicate offence.

In relation to the other money laundering offences, a person will be liable if he or she performed the act knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe in the existence of the relevant facts or that the property represents another person’s proceeds of crime.

The meaning of the phrases ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ and ‘reason to believe’ has been considered by the Singapore courts. In Ang Jeanette v PP [2011] 4 SLR 1, the High Court, in considering an offence under section 44(1)(a) CDSA, agreed with an earlier High Court decision in Ow Yew Beng v PP [2003] 1 SLR(R) 536 that having ‘reason to believe’ involved a ‘lesser degree of conviction than certainty but a higher one than speculation’. This approach has been affirmed more recently in the High Court case of Huang Ying-Chun v PP [2019] 3 SLR 606.

Accordingly, the test to determine whether a person had ‘reason to believe’ is partly objective and partly subjective. In applying the test, the court assumes the position of the individual involved (ie, including his or her knowledge and experience), but must reason (ie, infer from the facts known to such individual) from that position like an objective, reasonable person (Koh Hak Boon v PP [1993] 2 SLR(R) 733; PP v Wang Ziyi Able [2008] 2 SLR(R) 61).

Where the defendant is a legal person, criminal liability for money laundering may be established by proof that a director, employee or agent had committed, directed or consented to the act within the scope of his or her actual or apparent authority (section 52 CDSA). If a legal person or corporate body is found guilty, and the offence had been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to the neglect of, its key officer, both the officer and the legal person or corporate body shall be guilty of that offence (section 59 CDSA). In Abdul Ghani bin Tahir v PP [2017] 4 SLR 1153, the first local prosecution of an officer of a body corporate under section 59(1) of the CDSA, the High Court held that the element of attributability was satisfied as long as it was shown that the officer’s neglect was one of the reasons for the commission of the offence by the body corporate. To prove neglect, it must be shown that the officer knew or ought to have known (given the circumstances and the nature and functions of his or her office) of the existence of facts requiring him or her to take steps that fell within the scope of the functions of his or her role to prevent the commission of the offence by the company, and that he or she failed to take such steps.

Legal persons subject to criminal liability for money laundering may face parallel criminal, civil and administrative proceedings and actions (see questions 9 and 21).

Qualifying assets and transactions

Is there any limitation on the types of assets or transactions that can form the basis of a money laundering offence?

There are no limitations. Money laundering offences under the CDSA are defined in relation to ‘property’, which is a term that includes money and all other forms of property, whether moveable or immovable, and including things in action and other intangible or incorporeal property, whether situated in Singapore or elsewhere (sections 2(1) and 3(5) CDSA). There is no value threshold imposed.

Predicate offences

Generally, what constitute predicate offences?

Singapore has adopted a list approach when defining predicate offences. Only offences that are listed in the First and Second Schedules of the CDSA constitute predicate offences. Certain tax offences have been included as predicate offences.

In addition, an overseas offence that corresponds to one listed within the CDSA would also be considered to be a predicate offence. This is achieved by means of the CDSA defining ‘drug dealing’ and ‘criminal conduct’ to include, respectively, a foreign drug dealing offence and a foreign serious offence, which in turn refer to offences against a corresponding foreign law that consists of or includes conduct that, if such conduct had occurred in Singapore, would have constituted a drug dealing offence or a serious offence, as the case may be. An act committed in a foreign country shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to constitute a foreign drug dealing offence or foreign serious offence under section 47A(3) of the CDSA where the prosecution can adduce evidence that a foreign drug dealing offence or foreign serious offence had indeed been committed in the foreign country.

Defences

Are there any codified or common law defences to charges of money laundering?

Codified defences are available for money laundering offences under sections 43 and 44 of the CDSA. It is a defence to prove the absence of knowledge or reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant had intended to disclose his or her suspicion and there is reasonable excuse for failing to do so; or that the defendant had disclosed his or her suspicion to the appropriate person designated by his or her employer for making such disclosures.

There are also provisions under the CDSA that provide immunity from liability for money laundering offences if disclosure is made to the authorities and appropriate consent is obtained.

Specific disclosure and protection mechanisms are provided under sections 43(3) and 44(3) of the CDSA. If a person discloses to an authorised officer his or her suspicion or belief that any property is derived from or used in connection with drug dealing or criminal conduct and he or she acts with the consent of the authorised officer, that act will not be a money laundering offence. Alternatively, if a person discloses his or her suspicion or belief to an authorised officer after he or she acts and the disclosure is made on his or her own initiative and as soon as it is reasonable for him or her to do so, the act will also not constitute a money laundering offence.

Section 40 CDSA contains a broader disclosure and protection mechanism that offers protection from money laundering offences to a person who files an STR under section 39 CDSA. For such purposes, where a person or his or her officer, employee or agent gives information to the STRO as soon as practicable after knowledge had been acquired, such person shall be deemed not to have been in possession of that information at any time. The effect of section 40 is therefore to remove the mental element of a potential money laundering charge, without which the offence of money laundering may not be made out. In WBL Corp Ltd v Lew Chee Fai Kevin [2012] 2 SLR 978, the Court of Appeal held that section 40 effectively exonerated a party that filed an STR from liability for money laundering. This decision appears to have had an anomalous effect, in that a party that has committed a money laundering offence could absolve itself of liability by filing an STR, even without having to rely on the disclosure and consent exception provided in section 44(3) or 44(4).

Apart from the above, there are general exceptions provided in Singapore’s Penal Code that are available as defences in respect of any criminal prosecution.

Resolutions and sanctions

What is the range of outcomes in criminal money laundering cases?

The outcome of a money laundering case depends on the specific offence under which the prosecution has filed charges. Upon conviction for a money laundering offence under Part VI of the CDSA, natural persons are liable to a maximum fine of S$500,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years, while legal persons are liable to a maximum fine of S$1 million or twice the value of the benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct in respect of which the money laundering offence was committed, whichever is higher.

In addition to any criminal liability, a confiscation, restraint or charging order may also be made by the court in respect of realisable property (see question 10). The term ‘realisable property’ includes any property held by the defendant, as well as any property gifted directly or indirectly by the defendant to a person and that is caught by the CDSA (section 2 CDSA).

Forfeiture

Describe any related asset freezing, forfeiture, disgorgement and victim compensation laws.

Confiscation orders

Upon conviction for one or more predicate offences, the court may, on the application of the Public Prosecutor, make a confiscation order against the defendant in respect of benefits derived by him or her from drug dealing (section 4 CDSA) or criminal conduct (section 5 CDSA) if the court is satisfied that such benefits have been so derived.

A confiscation order involves ordering the defendant to pay an amount assessed to be the value of the benefit derived by the defendant from drug dealing or criminal conduct. For the avoidance of doubt, the court may make a confiscation order in respect of the full amount determined to be the value of the benefits derived by the defendant from drug dealing or criminal conduct. Confiscation orders operate as though they were a fine imposed by the court. In default of payment, the defendant may be subject to terms of imprisonment.

For this purpose, a person who holds any property or interest therein that is disproportionate to his or her known sources of income, the holding of which cannot be explained to the satisfaction of the court, is presumed, until the contrary is proven, to have derived benefits from drug dealing or criminal conduct. The assessed value of the benefits will be the aggregate of the values of such properties and interests.

A third party that asserts an interest in any property for which a confiscation order is sought may make an application to the court, who may, if satisfied that the third party was not involved in the defendant’s drug dealing or criminal conduct and had acquired the property for sufficient consideration and without knowledge or reasonable suspicion of its illicit origins, make an order declaring the nature, extent and value of his or her interest in the property.

A confiscation order may still be made, notwithstanding that a person may have absconded if he or she is taken to have been convicted of drug dealing or a serious offence, as provided for under section 26 of the CDSA, and if the court is satisfied on the evidence before it that the evidence would have warranted his or her conviction if it was unrebutted.

It is also possible for a court to make a substitute property confiscation order under section 29B of the CDSA if it is satisfied that the defendant had used or intended to use an instrumentality for the commission of the offence but the instrumentality is no longer available for confiscation. In such a case, the defendant is liable to pay the government an amount the court assesses to be the value of the instrumentality, as specified in the substitute property confiscation order.

In relation to organised crime activity, under the OCA, material or financial gains from organised crime activity can be confiscated without the need for a criminal conviction. This is provided that the court is satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the person has carried out an organised crime activity and has derived benefits from the organised crime activity. For this purpose, the expression ‘organised crime activity’ refers to any activity carried out by a person in (or outside) Singapore that amounts to a serious offence specified in the Schedule to the OCA and is carried out at the direction of or in furtherance of the illegal purpose of a group which the person knows or has reasonable grounds to believe is an (locally linked) organised criminal group. The expression also includes an activity carried out by a person that amounts to an offence under Part 2 of the OCA. Part 2 of the OCA contains a group of provisions that criminalise being a member of an organised criminal group, instructing or facilitating the commission of an offence by such a group, and recruiting of members and expending of property to support these groups.

Restraint orders and charging orders

To assist in the enforcement of confiscation orders, the High Court of Singapore is empowered to make, upon application by the Public Prosecutor, a restraint order under section 16 of the CDSA or a charging order under section 17 of the CDSA, where proceedings for confiscation orders are contemplated. A restraint order serves to prohibit any person from dealing with realisable property, while a charging order (applicable to immovable property and to capital markets products) serves to secure payment of any amount payable under a confiscation order. Similar restraint orders and charging orders are also provided under the OCA in support of confiscation orders made under the OCA.

Where realisable property is held by a company that is in the process of winding up (whether voluntarily or compulsorily), the liquidator may not exercise its functions in relation to property that is subject to a restraint order made before the passing of the winding-up resolution or making of the compulsory winding-up order (the relevant time), or any proceeds realised by the public trustee or a receiver appointed by the court. This is unless payment out of the property is made towards expenses properly incurred in the winding up of the property (section 24 CDSA).

After the relevant time has passed, the court may not exercise its power to make restraint orders and charging orders in relation to any realisable property held by the company if the effect of the orders would be to inhibit the liquidator from making distributions to the company’s creditors or to prevent making of payments towards expenses incurred in the winding up of the property. For the avoidance of doubt, charging orders made before the relevant time, as well as property subject to a restraint order made at the relevant time, remain enforceable.

Limitation periods on money laundering prosecutions

What are the limitation periods governing money laundering prosecutions?

As a general rule, prosecutions for criminal offences are not subject to enforcement limitation periods. The court may, however, take into consideration the delayed or protracted prosecution or enforcement as a factor in deciding the case.

Extraterritorial reach of money laundering law

Do your jurisdiction’s money laundering laws have extraterritorial reach?

Yes, the CDSA has extraterritorial effect. Section 3(5) CDSA provides that the CDSA applies to properties ‘situated in Singapore and elsewhere’. The CDSA will therefore apply to a person who commits a money laundering offence overseas. Conduct that occurs in another jurisdiction may also constitute a predicate offence for money laundering if such conduct, had it occurred in Singapore, would constitute a predicate offence under the CDSA (see question 7).

AML requirements for covered institutions and individuals

Enforcement and regulation

Which government entities enforce your jurisdiction’s AML regime and regulate covered institutions and persons? Do the AML rules provide for ongoing and periodic assessments of covered institutions and persons?

The following sectors in Singapore are subject to regulation for AML. The specific content of regulation varies according to the sector, but regulation here is primarily focused on requiring persons or entities within the sector to undertake CDD measures prior to entering into a business relationship with or providing services to a customer.

Regulator

Covered institutions and persons

Relevant legislation/guideline

MAS

FIs:

  • Banks
  • Merchant banks
  • Finance companies
  • Money changers
  • Remittance agents
  • Insurers
  • Insurance brokers
  • Capital markets intermediaries
  • Trust companies
  • Financial advisers
  • The Central Depository (Pte) Ltd (the Depository)
  • Stored value facility holders

Respective MAS AML/CFT Notices (and related Guidelines) issued under section 27B of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act as follows:

  • MAS Notice 626: banks
  • MAS Notice 626A: credit card or charge card licensees
  • MAS Notice 1014: merchant banks
  • MAS Notice 824: finance companies
  • MAS Notice 3001: money changers and remittance agents
  • MAS Notice 314: life insurers
  • MAS Notice SFA04-N02: capital markets intermediaries
  • MAS Notice TCA-N03: trust companies
  • MAS Notice SFA13-N01: approved trustees
  • MAS Notice FAA-N06: financial advisers
  • MAS Notice SFA03AA-N01: the Depository
  • MAS Notice PSOA-N02: holders of stored value facilities

Casino Regulatory Authority

Casino operators

Casino Control Act

Casino Control (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Regulations 2009

Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office

Pawnbrokers

Pawnbrokers Act 2015

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)

Corporate service providers

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Filing Agents and Qualified Individuals) Regulations 2015

Guidelines for Registered Filing Agents

Council for Estate Agencies

Real estate agents and salespersons

Practice Circular on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism

The Law Society of Singapore

Lawyers

Legal Profession Act

Legal Profession (Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism) Rules 2015

Law Society Council’s Practice Direction 3.2.1 of 2015 on the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Funding of Terrorism

Ministry of Law

Moneylenders

Moneylenders Act

Moneylenders (Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Rules 2009)

ACRA

Public accountants

The Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants’ (ISCA) Ethics Pronouncement 200: ‘Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism - Requirements and Guidelines for Professional Accountants in Singapore’

Registrar of Regulated Dealers

Dealers in precious metals and stones

Precious Stones and Precious Metals (Prevention of Money

Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act 2019 (PSPMA)

Precious Stones and Precious Metals (Prevention of Money

Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Regulations 2019

Singapore Customs

Zero-GST warehouse licensees

Singapore Customs’ directives website on measures to mitigate money laundering and terrorism financing risks for Zero-GST warehouse licensees storing listed goods

Registry of Societies

Registered societies

Guide for Protecting your Society against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

Commissioner of Charities

Registered charities

Guide for Protecting your Charity against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

Covered institutions and persons

Which institutions and persons must carry out AML measures?

See question 13.

Compliance

Do the AML laws in your jurisdiction require covered institutions and persons to implement AML compliance programmes? What are the required elements of such programmes?

There are variations across the different classes of covered institutions and persons, but covered institutions and persons are generally required to implement a robust AML framework commensurate with their risk profile and the nature, scale and complexity of their business. Sectors subject to more stringent regulation (such as FIs) are required to adopt an overall risk-based approach, which involves the institution or person undertaking a risk assessment to identify and assess relevant money laundering risks. The risk assessment is generally required to take into account various factors, such as the geographical locations of its business units, customer base and profile, product lines and delivery channels, as well as any other emerging areas of risks. Appropriate controls, policies and procedures are then to be developed and applied to manage and mitigate the money laundering risks.

Before covered institutions and persons establish a business relationship with a customer or before they engage in transactions with a customer, they are generally required to identify the customer, any beneficial owners and other persons who may be associated with the customer, and to also take steps to verify their identities. Where the customer is considered to pose lower risks, simplified measures may be employed and conversely where the customer is considered to pose higher risks, enhanced measures (commensurate to the risk scenario) would be required - see question 17.

On an ongoing basis, covered institutions and persons are typically required to closely monitor their business dealings with customers so that suspicious activity can be promptly reported to the STRO.

Existing AML controls, policies and procedures are to be kept under regular review to ensure that they continue to be effective in helping to manage and mitigate money laundering risks.

Breach of AML requirements

What constitutes breach of AML duties imposed by the law?

Singapore does not have an integrated AML law as such. While most aspects of Singapore’s laws on money laundering are provided for in the CDSA, the legal requirement to conduct CDD is found in sector-specific regulatory frameworks. Thus, enforcement of the requirement to conduct CDD is largely in the hands of sectoral regulators such as the MAS (for FIs).

Failure to comply with the regulatory requirements (whether these be set out in the CDSA or in sector-specific regimes) generally constitutes an offence under the relevant law, which is enforced either via criminal prosecution or by imposition of regulatory penalties.

Singapore law provides for the crime of tipping-off. It is an offence under section 48 CDSA to tip-off or disclose information that is likely to prejudice an investigation or proposed investigation. It is also a tipping-off offence to inform another person that an STR has been filed.

Customer and business partner due diligence

Describe due diligence requirements in your jurisdiction’s AML regime.

There are variations across the different classes of covered institutions and persons, but generally speaking, covered institutions and persons are required to perform CDD on their customers as and when:

  • business relations are established;
  • (where no business relations are established) the transaction undertaken exceeds a prescribed amount;
  • there is a suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing (ML/TF); or
  • the veracity or adequacy of any information previously obtained is in doubt.

CDD measures generally entail a qualitative assessment of ML/TF risks presented by the customer. Except in certain low-risk scenarios, the CDD measures generally involve the following measures:

  • identifying and verifying the identity of the customer (or where it is a legal person, its legal form, proof of existence, constitution and powers that regulate and bind it);
  • where the customer is a legal person, identifying the persons with executive authority within the organisation structure of the customer;
  • identifying and verifying the identity of any agent of the customer, including the agent’s authority to act; and
  • checking for the existence of any beneficial owner in relation to a customer, and if so, identifying and verifying their identities.

After a customer is onboarded, it would usually be necessary for the transactions with the customer to be monitored, again on a risk-sensitive basis, so that suspicious activity or transactions may be reported to the STRO.

High-risk categories of customers, business partners and transactions

Do your jurisdiction’s AML rules require that covered institutions and persons conduct risk-based analyses? Which high-risk categories are specified?

Yes, enhanced CDD is commonly prescribed by sectoral regulators when the customer falls into a high-risk category. Examples of a high-risk customer include:

  • where the customer or one of its agents, connected parties or bene­ficial owners is a politically exposed person (PEP) or a family member or close associate of a PEP. A PEP has, in most cases, been broadly defined to include domestic, foreign and international organisation PEPs; or
  • where the customer or its beneficial owner is from or in a country or jurisdiction in relation to which the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has called for countermeasures.

Such enhanced CDD measures may entail:

  • procuring approval from senior management to establish or to continue business relations with the customer;
  • making additional inquiries and checks, especially as to the source of the customer’s wealth or the source of the funds that will be received from the customer; and
  • more intense scrutiny and ongoing monitoring of business relations and transactions.

Some sectoral regulators have also provided guidance on potential red-flag indicators. These include:

  • unusual or excessively complex ownership structure given the nature of the business;
  • where the customer is a personal asset-holding vehicle;
  • where the customer is overly evasive or resistant to providing additional information, or provides unsatisfactory information when asked;
  • where business relations are conducted under unusual circumstances or there is significant unexplained geographic distance between the institution and the customer;
  • where the transaction is structured in a circuitous manner, involves possible shell companies or has no apparent or visible economic or lawful purpose;
  • where frequent payments are received from a party not related to the customer, and not known to have any business association with the customer; and
  • where the customer’s activity is not commensurate with its known profile.
Record-keeping and reporting requirements

Describe the record-keeping and reporting requirements for covered institutions and persons.

The requirements for record-keeping and reporting are, for FIs, set out in the CDSA and for certain other covered institutions and persons in other legal regimes.

Record-keeping

Covered institutions and persons are generally required to retain CDD information, as well as other relevant data, documents and information, for a period of at least five years. This may include, for example, details of its risk assessments, information on business relations with or transactions for a customer, and information pertaining to a matter that has been the subject of an STR. Such requirements may be imposed either under the CDSA or by the respective sectoral regulators.

Section 37 CDSA expressly requires that FIs retain records of financial transactions for a minimum retention period of five years.

Dealers in precious metals and stones are required under section 18 PSPMA to maintain records of cash transactions exceeding S$20,000, as well as customer information, for a period of five years.

Suspicious transaction reporting

Section 39 CDSA makes it mandatory for a person in the course of his or her trade, profession, business or employment to lodge an STR if he or she knows or has reasonable grounds to suspect that any property represents the proceeds of, or was or is intended to be used in connection with, any act that may constitute drug dealing or criminal conduct. The failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence. The statutory obligation to file STRs is also supplemented by anti-money laundering or combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) guidelines issued by regulators of the various sectors.

Cash transaction reporting

Under the Casino Control Act, casino operators are required to file a cash transaction report with the STRO for cash transactions with a patron (or on its behalf) involving an aggregate amount of S$10,000 or more in a transaction (or in any gaming day).

Under the PSPMA, dealers of precious metals and stones are likewise required to submit a cash transaction report to the STRO in respect of any sale or purchase transaction with a customer (or its agent), where the aggregate payments in cash or a cash equivalent exceeds S$20,000 in a transaction (or in a day).

Cross-border cash movement reporting

Part VIA CDSA governs the disclosure of information regarding movement of cash and bearer negotiable instruments in and out of Singapore. Persons moving cash into or out of Singapore, or who receive cash from outside of Singapore above the amount of S$20,000, are required to report such movement or receipt.

Privacy laws

Describe any privacy laws that affect record-keeping requirements, due diligence efforts and information sharing.

Generally, Singapore’s privacy and confidentiality laws have been carefully structured so as not to inhibit the effective operation of AML/CFT laws.

Personal data in Singapore is protected by the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA), which comprises rules governing the collection, use, disclosure, access to, correction and care of personal data by organisations. The PDPA applies concurrently with other Singapore laws and regulations. Unless otherwise expressly provided in the PDPA or other written law, organisations are generally required to obtain the individual’s informed consent for the collection, use and disclosure of his or her personal data for notified purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the given circumstances. Scheduled exceptions or limitations have, however, been specified in the PDPA to accommodate existing regulations and other reasonable situations. In particular, disclosure of personal data may be made without consent where it is necessary for any investigation and proceedings, or if the personal data is disclosed to any officer of a prescribed law enforcement agency.

In relation to FIs, in order that the PDPA does not compromise the ability of FIs to effectively conduct CDD, the AML/CFT notices issued by MAS (that are legally binding and thus have the effect of law) override the PDPA by specifically providing that consent from the customer is not needed for FIs to collect, use and disclose personal data to meet AML/CFT requirements.

There are also statutes that impose confidentiality obligations on certain classes of regulated persons. For example, banks in Singapore are subject to a statutory duty to observe confidentiality in respect of bank account information under section 47 of the Banking Act (BA). However, exceptions are provided in the BA to enable banks to disclose information if this is required for the purposes of an investigation or the prosecution of an offence, so that banking confidentiality cannot be relied upon as a shield against criminal investigations.

Resolutions and sanctions

What is the range of outcomes in AML controversies? What are the possible sanctions for breach of AML laws?

There is a broad range of enforcement measures available to the authorities in Singapore. Most AML contraventions are enforced via criminal prosecutions, which may result in imprisonment or substantial fines. For contraventions of lesser severity, administrative sanctions can be imposed, such as a reprimand or warning.

Covered institutions and persons that contravene AML laws also run the risk of being subject to penalties imposed by their sectoral regulators. For FIs, the MAS may revoke their licence to operate or impose restrictions upon their operations.

See also question 16.

Limitation periods for AML enforcement

What are the limitation periods governing AML matters?

As mentioned in question 11, as a general rule prosecutions for criminal offence are not subject to enforcement limitation periods. The court may, however, take into consideration the delayed or protracted prosecution and enforcement as a factor in deciding the case.

Extraterritoriality

Do your jurisdiction’s AML laws have extraterritorial reach?

For FIs incorporated in Singapore, the AML rules do have a degree of extraterritorial reach. The regulatory standards set out in the AML/CFT notices issued by the MAS apply not just to FIs that operate within Singapore, but, in the case of FIs incorporated in Singapore, also to such FIs’ overseas branches and subsidiaries.

Singapore-incorporated FIs are generally required to develop and implement group policies and procedures that meet local AML requirements, and implement them in all overseas branches and subsidiaries within the group. Where the AML requirements in the host jurisdiction differ from those in Singapore, institutions may be required to apply the higher of the two standards to the overseas branch or subsidiary, to the extent that the law of the host jurisdiction permits. Where the law of the host jurisdiction conflicts with Singapore law so that the overseas branch or subsidiary is unable to fully observe the higher standard, the institution may be required to implement additional measures to effectively manage the money laundering risks, notify the relevant Singapore authorities and comply with any further directions that may be given.

Civil claims

Procedure

Enumerate and describe the required elements of a civil claim or private right of action against money launderers and covered institutions and persons in breach of AML laws.

Liability for breach of AML laws in Singapore is generally imposed by the criminal and regulatory regimes and no specific allowance has been made for civil enforcement of AML breaches under the CDSA. It is presently uncertain whether obligations arising under AML laws can be enforced via a civil claim or private right of action.

International money laundering efforts

Supranational

List your jurisdiction’s memberships of supranational organisations that address money laundering.

Singapore is a member of the following international AML/CFT organisations:

  • the FATF;
  • the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG); and
  • the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
Anti-money laundering assessments

Give details of any assessments of your jurisdiction’s money laundering regime conducted by virtue of your membership of supranational organisations.

From 18 November to 4 December 2015, the FATF and APG jointly conducted an on-site mutual evaluation of Singapore. The Mutual Evaluation Report for this was finalised and published in September 2016, in which Singapore was assessed to have either a moderate or substantial rating for effectiveness and technical compliance with 10 out of 11 immediate outcomes, and a low rating in respect of the immediate outcome for terrorism-financing investigation and prosecution. Singapore was also assessed to have either a compliant or largely compliant rating in respect of 34 out of a total of 40 recommendations, and a partially compliant rating in respect of the remaining six recommendations.

FIUs

Give details of your jurisdiction’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

The STRO is the FIU of Singapore and the main agency responsible for receiving and analysing STRs. It was admitted into the Egmont Group in June 2002. Its contact details are:

Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office

Commercial Affairs Department

391 New Bridge Road #06-701

Police Cantonment Complex Block D

Singapore 088762

[email protected]

STRs may be lodged in writing or via the STRO’s web-based STR Online Notices and Reporting (SONAR) platform.

Mutual legal assistance

In which circumstances will your jurisdiction provide mutual legal assistance with respect to money laundering investigations? What are your jurisdiction’s policies and procedures with respect to requests from foreign countries for identifying, freezing and seizing assets?

Singapore’s mutual legal assistance framework is governed by the MACMA. Certain forms of mutual legal assistance are available only to countries that have entered into a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) with Singapore. Such countries are gazetted as ‘prescribed foreign countries’ under the MACMA and may be rendered assistance in accordance with the terms of the relevant MLAT and the MACMA. Where no MLAT has been signed, mutual legal assistance remains available but the foreign country must give an undertaking of reciprocity.

Dual criminality requirement

Dual criminality is generally required under the MACMA. In order to qualify, the foreign offence for which Singapore’s assistance is sought must be of such a nature that if the conduct had occurred in Singapore, it would have constituted an offence prescribed under the First or Second Schedule of the MACMA.

The MACMA was partially liberalised in 2014, with the requirement of dual criminality waived in relation to certain non-coercive assistance with respect to tax offences. This allows Singapore to render assistance in relation to a foreign tax offence, even though the underlying conduct might not have constituted a Singapore tax offence if it had occurred in Singapore.

Procedures

A wide range of assistance is available under the MACMA, ranging from the taking of evidence, enforcement of foreign confiscation orders, arranging for attendance of persons in the foreign state, search and seizure, and effecting the service of process.

Formal requests for assistance are handled and processed by the International Affairs Division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Other sources of assistance

The STRO may share financial intelligence in relation to ML/TF and other serious offences with its FIU counterparts with whom it has signed memoranda of understanding, and may also exchange information through the Egmont Group of FIUs.

Informal forms of assistance may also be rendered by the enforcement units within the CAD and STRO through the Interpol network, or directly with foreign law enforcement counterparts through police-to-police contacts.

Update and trends

Enforcement and compliance

Describe any national trends in criminal money laundering schemes and enforcement efforts. Describe any national trends in AML enforcement and regulation. Describe current best practices in the compliance arena for companies and financial institutions.

29. Enforcement and compliance

Describe any national trends in criminal money laundering schemes and enforcement efforts. Describe any national trends in AML enforcement and regulation. Describe current best practices in the compliance arena for companies and financial institutions.

At a national level, the Singapore government has made continuing efforts to boost Singapore’s AML/CFT standards and to bring Singapore’s AML regime in line with the international standards set out by the FATF. Recent measures that have been put in place by the government include:

  • Amendments made to the AML framework under the CDSA via the Serious Crimes and Counter-Terrorism (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2018, effective 1 April 2019. Revisions made to the CDSA to enhance deterrence and strengthen enforcement powers include: (i) imposing stiffer penalties for ML/TF offences, the offence of tipping off and the failure to report suspicious transactions; (ii) introducing a new offence criminalising the possession or use by a person of property that would be reasonably suspected of being benefits of drug dealing or criminal conduct if the person cannot satisfactorily account for how he or she came by the property; (iii) expanding the range of penalties (including confiscation of undeclared cash) and composition fines for offences in breach of Singapore’s cross-border cash reporting requirements; and (iv) enabling sharing of financial intelligence by the STRO with foreign jurisdictions that are members of the Egmont Group of FIUs, beyond just countries with which Singapore has bilateral arrangements.
  • New AML requirements for property developers under the Developers (Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Bill, which was passed in Parliament on 20 November 2018. When the new regulations come into effect, property developers will be required to comply with obligations including, performing CDD measures on their buyers, maintaining proper records of information obtained through CDD measures, developing internal policies and controls to mitigate and manage ML/TF risks and reporting suspicious transactions to the STRO.
  • New AML framework for precious stones and precious metals dealers (PSMD) under the PSPMA, which came into effect on 10 April 2019. Under the new regime, the PMSD sector is required to comply with a full suite of AML/CFT measures including performing CDD measures, maintaining proper records of information obtained through CDD measures, developing internal policies and controls to mitigate and manage ML/TF risks and submitting cash transaction reports and information on suspicious transactions to the Registrar of Regulated Dealers.

Within the financial sector, the MAS has published an inaugural enforcement report on 20 March 2019, as part of its initiatives to provide greater accountability and transparency into the enforcement actions taken by the MAS. The report sets out a general overview of the enforcement actions taken by the MAS between July 2017 and December 2018 against breaches of its rules and regulations, including financial penalties imposed on FIs and prohibition orders issued against individuals for AML breaches. For breaches related to ML controls, the MAS has noted in the report that it was looking at 13 outstanding cases as at 31 December 2018, involving employees of FIs, banks, trust companies, capital market intermediaries and a holder of stored value facility. To sharpen and intensify AML/CFT supervision over FIs, the MAS has also said that it intends to leverage data analytics to enhance its supervisory effectiveness and ability to detect and examine ML/TF vulnerabilities in the financial system.