New Singapore offensive against money laundering, terrorism financing

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) building in Shenton Way.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) building in Shenton Way.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

MAS partners CAD to combat such financial crimes as well as bolster Singapore's defences

The Singapore authorities and government bodies are going on the offensive against money laundering and terrorism financing with a new partnership.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Industry Partnership (ACIP) brings together several parties to fight such increasingly dangerous forces around the world.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) said in a joint statement yesterday that the partnership will fight not just money laundering and terrorism financing but also work on enhancing the ability to combat crimes arising from Singapore's position as an international financial centre and trade hub.

Mr Ong Chong Tee, deputy managing director of financial supervision at MAS, noted that estimates place the amount of money laundered around the world each year at more than US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) but "in truth, no one really knows".

Such threats undermine the confidence and stability of financial systems and come with high social and political costs, he added, which is why the MAS and CAD are stepping up their efforts.

The ACIP will have several groups studying specific risk areas and topics relevant to money laundering and terrorism financing.

The main steering group, as it is called, is made up of eight banks and the Association of Banks in Singapore, and is chaired by the CAD and MAS.

The groups will share information with the private sector and other stakeholders so everyone can better understand and mitigate the risks. They will also create "tangible, relevant and targeted" products for the industry.

Mr Ong said it is important that financial institutions demonstrate a good understanding of risks, and have a good risk culture within their organisation.

There are already international organisations - such as the Financial Action Task Force and the Egmont Group - that are working on tackling such transnational threats, but Mr Ong stressed that it is just as crucial to work on such issues in Singapore.

"Financial crime typologies are evolving rapidly. Countries must explore smarter and more effective ways to combat such crimes," said CAD director David Chew.

For instance, MAS' anti-money laundering department was set up last year to coordinate strategies across all economic sectors.

It also uses different metrics to intensify "supervision on areas or businesses that are more prone to money laundering and terrorism financing risks, or where controls have been found to be lacking from past inspections", said Mr Ong.

"Singapore must be proactive in playing our part to combat threats," he pointed out, given that the country is home to several financial institutions, including international names.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Offensive against money laundering'. Print Edition | Subscribe