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Introduction of Enhanced Anti-Money Laundering Bill in Parliament

Money LaunderingIntroduction of Enhanced Anti-Money Laundering Bill in Parliament
  1. The Anti-Money Laundering and Other Matters Bill was introduced for its First Reading in Parliament today.

Background

  1. The Government continually updates laws to ensure they effectively combat evolving criminal activities. The Anti-Money Laundering and Other Matters Bill aims to:

    (a) Enhance the capabilities of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in pursuing and prosecuting money laundering (ML) offences.

    (b) Clarify and improve procedures for handling seized or restrained properties linked to suspected criminal activities.

    (c) Align the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework for casino operators with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards.

Key Amendments

Enhancing LEA Capabilities in Pursuing and Prosecuting ML Offences

Facilitating Prosecution of ML Cases Originating from Foreign Criminal Conduct

  1. Currently, to prosecute ML offences, the Prosecution must show that laundered funds in Singapore are directly linked to specific criminal activities. For crimes committed outside Singapore, authorities must trace the complete money trail from the crime’s origin to the funds reaching the launderer.
  2. LEAs often face difficulties obtaining the necessary evidence from foreign entities, especially when funds pass through multiple jurisdictions before entering Singapore.
  3. The Bill will amend the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA), removing the requirement to directly link criminal conduct to laundered funds. The Prosecution will only need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the money launderer knew or should have known they were handling criminal proceeds, aiding in prosecuting money mules involving funds passing through foreign intermediaries before reaching Singapore.

Designating Foreign Environmental Crimes as ML Predicate Offences

  1. LEAs can currently investigate ML offences from foreign crimes only if those crimes are also considered serious offences under Singaporean law. Environmental crimes like illegal mining, waste trafficking, or logging, not classified as serious offences in Singapore, limit the ability to investigate related ML activities.
  2. The Bill will introduce a Third Schedule to the CDSA, classifying serious foreign environmental crimes as ML predicate offences. This will enable LEAs to investigate if funds in Singapore are suspected to originate from such crimes abroad.

Enhancing Cross-Agency Data Sharing

  1. The Bill will amend several acts (Income Tax Act, Goods and Services Tax Act, Regulation of Imports and Exports Act, and Free Trade Zones Act) to improve authorities’ detection of ML, terrorism financing (TF), and proliferation financing (PF).
  2. The amendments will allow agencies, such as the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Singapore Customs, to share tax and trade data with Singapore’s Financial Intelligence Unit, the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (STRO). The CDSA will also be amended to give AML/CFT regulators, like the Council for Estate Agencies and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, access to suspicious transaction reports filed by regulated entities.
  3. This data sharing will enhance STRO’s analysis of ML, TF, and PF risks, providing richer intelligence to LEAs and regulators, enabling them to better understand and address risks and trends in their sectors.

Improving Processes for Handling Seized or Restrained Properties

Permitting the Sale of Seized or Restrained Properties

  1. Currently, LEAs need consent from all parties to obtain a court order to sell seized or restrained property. Without consensus, LEAs must manage and maintain the property, incurring significant costs, especially for vehicles, vessels, and livestock.
  2. The Bill will amend the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and the CDSA to allow courts to order the sale of such properties if:

(a) All parties consent.

(b) The property’s value is likely to depreciate, or maintenance costs are high.

(c) The sale is in the interest of justice.

  1. These amendments will help LEAs reduce maintenance costs and preserve the value of assets, enhancing subsequent asset recovery and restitution to victims.

Handling Properties Linked to Absconded Suspects

  1. LEAs may seize properties linked to suspects who have fled the country. The current process for handling these properties is unclear, and the CPC does not address this issue.
  2. The proposed amendments will ensure that:

(a) The Court cannot dispose of seized properties if there are ongoing investigations into the absconded person.

(b) Absconded individuals must present themselves for investigations before claiming seized properties.

  1. These amendments will prevent the premature release of seized properties and ensure investigations can proceed without obstruction from absconded suspects.

Aligning AML/CFT Framework for Casino Operators with FATF Standards

  1. The Bill will amend the Casino Control Act to tighten customer due diligence (CDD) requirements for casino operators to detect and prevent ML, TF, and PF.
  2. Currently, casino operators must perform CDD checks on patrons for single cash transactions of S$10,000 or more, or deposits of S$5,000 or more.
  3. To align with FATF standards, the changes will require casino operators to consider PF risks in CDD checks. The Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore will be empowered to issue regulations for detecting and preventing PF. The threshold for CDD checks will be lowered to transactions or deposits of S$4,000 or more.

Footnotes: [1] The FATF is an intergovernmental body that develops international standards to combat ML, terrorism financing (TF), and proliferation financing (PF). Singapore is a member of the FATF.

[2] Proliferation financing refers to funding or financial services for the illicit development and supply of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, and involves potential breaches of targeted financial sanctions imposed by relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

By FCCT Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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