11 July 2024

On 2 July 2024, the Anti-Money Laundering and Other Matters Bill (“Bill”) was introduced for first reading in Parliament. The Bill seeks to:

  • enhance the ability of law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”) to pursue and prosecute money laundering (“ML”) offences;
  • clarify and improve processes to deal with seized or restrained properties linked to suspected criminal activities; and
  • align the anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (“AML/CFT”) framework for casino operators with the Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”) standards.

On 2 July 2024, the Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) issued a press release explaining the changes that the Bill will introduce. Details are set out below.

Enhance ability of LEAs to pursue and prosecute ML offences

The Bill will amend the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 (“CDSA”) to enhance the ability of LEAs to pursue and prosecute ML offences in the following areas:

  • Enhance levers for prosecution of ML cases arising from criminal conduct abroad: The CDSA will be amended such that the Prosecution need not show the direct link between the criminal conduct and the monies allegedly laundered in Singapore. It will be sufficient for the Prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the money launderer knew or had reasonable grounds to believe that he was dealing with criminal proceeds. This will facilitate the prosecution of money mules in cases where the monies laundered had passed through bank accounts and intermediaries in foreign jurisdictions, before entering Singapore.
  • Designate foreign environmental crimes as ML predicate offences: The Bill will introduce a Third Schedule to the CDSA, designating serious foreign environmental crimes including illegal logging, illegal land clearing, illegal mining, illegal waste trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade as ML predicate offences. This will allow LEAs to investigate ML offences if it is suspected that the monies in Singapore are derived from such crimes committed overseas.
  • Enable cross-agency data sharing to enhance detection of ML, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing: The Bill will introduce amendments to the Income Tax Act 1947, the Goods and Services Tax Act 1993, the Regulation of Imports and Exports Act 1995, and the Free Trade Zones Act 1966 to enhance authorities’ ability to detect ML, terrorism financing (“TF”), and proliferation financing (“PF”).

The amendments will allow government agencies, namely the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Singapore Customs, to share tax data and trade data respectively with Singapore’s Financial Intelligence Unit, the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (“STRO”) of the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force. AML/CFT regulators, such as the Council for Estate Agencies and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, will also have access to suspicious transaction reports filed by their respective regulated entities.

The press release explains that the sharing of such data will enable STRO to augment its analysis on ML, TF, and PF risks and provide richer intelligence to LEAs and regulators. Regulators will also have a better overview of the existing and emerging ML, TF, and PF risks and trends relating to their sectors and be able to take AML/CFT supervisory and regulatory actions earlier and more effectively.

Seized or restrained properties linked to suspected criminal activities

The Bill introduces provisions to clarify and improve processes to deal with seized or restrained properties linked to suspected criminal activities in the following ways:

  • Allow sale of seized or restrained properties: The Bill will amend the Criminal Procedure Code 2010 (“CPC”) and the CDSA to allow the court to order the sale of seized or restrained properties linked to suspected criminal activities, where the Police or Public Prosecutor applies for the sale of the property, and:
    • all parties consent to the sale;
    • the value of the property is likely to depreciate, or undue costs are involved in maintaining the property; or
    • the sale would be in the interest of justice.

The amendments will allow LEAs to reduce the cost of property maintenance and preserve the value of seized or restrained properties, to enhance subsequent asset recovery and restitution to victims.

  • Deal with seized properties linked to suspects who have absconded: The press release explains that the current processes for dealing with seized properties linked to absconded persons are unclear, and the CPC is silent on this issue. The proposed amendments will provide that:
    • where LEAs apply to the court for continued seizure of properties, the court must not dispose of the properties if it is satisfied that there are ongoing investigations into the absconded person; and
    • an absconded person will be required to personally present himself to the LEA for investigations, before he can make a claim to the seized properties.

These amendments will prevent the premature release of seized properties while investigations are ongoing, and avoid a situation where an absconded person evades investigations by staying out of Singapore and makes a successful claim to the seized properties because investigations have not been able to proceed.

  • Align AML/CFT framework for casino operators with FATF standards: The Bill will amend the Casino Control Act 2006 to tighten requirements for casino operators to conduct customer due diligence (“CDD”) checks for the detection and prevention of ML, TF, and PF, aligning the process with the FATF standards.

Currently, casino operators are required to perform CDD checks on patrons when the casino operator enters a single cash transaction involving S$10,000 or more, or receives S$5,000 or more in a single transaction to be deposited into a deposit account.

The Bill will require casino operators to also consider PF risks when conducting CDD checks. The Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore will be empowered to issue regulations requiring casino operators to detect or prevent PF. In addition, the quantum for when CDD checks is required will be lowered to cover cash transactions or deposits involving S$4,000 or more.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg and the MHA website www.mha.gov.sg:

More

Knowledge Highlights 11 July 2024

The International Comparative Legal Guide to Vertical Agreements & Dominant Firms 2024 (8th Ed) - Singapore

Read more