MAS orders crypto exchange platform Binance.com to stop services in Singapore

In recent months, Binance has come under intense scrutiny from regulators worldwide.
In recent months, Binance has come under intense scrutiny from regulators worldwide.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has ordered Binance to stop providing payment services in Singapore and to cease soliciting business from Singapore residents.

The regulator has reviewed Binance.com’s operations and is of the view that the website’s operator Binance “may be in breach of the Payment Services Act for carrying on the business of providing payment services to, and soliciting such business from Singapore residents without an appropriate licence”, said a spokesman in response to media queries. 

MAS also placed Binance.com on its Investor Alert List on Thursday (Sept 2) to warn consumers in Singapore that Binance is not regulated or licensed in Singapore to provide any payment services. 

The list flags companies that are not licensed by the MAS, but may have given investors the impression that they were sanctioned by the Singapore regulator.

As at Sept 2, the MAS website listed 699 companies, including those registered overseas, which may have been wrongly perceived to be regulated by the MAS.

The spokesman added that MAS has been engaging Binance’s local arm Binance Asia Services and expects the Singapore-registered entity to “immediately begin an orderly suspension” of its facilitation of transfers of digital payment token assets between the firm and its parent company Binance.

"BAS (Binance Asia Services) will inform its customers of the appropriate arrangements as soon as practicable," said the MAS spokesman.

The move comes about a month after Malaysia ordered Binance to disable its main exchange, Binance.com, and mobile applications in the country.

Calling it an illegal digital asset exchange, Securities Commission Malaysia had placed Binance and three other Binance entities, including the Singapore-registered Binance Asia Services, on its investor alert list last July. 

In recent months, Binance - the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume - has come under intense scrutiny from regulators worldwide, including in Malaysia, Britain, the United States, Italy and Thailand.

Its British arm, Binance Markets, was in June banned from doing regulated business in the country over concerns that it was not doing enough to prevent money laundering and other financial crimes on its platform.

Japan’s financial regulator has also issued a notice, warning that Binance is not registered to do business within the country.

In July, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission issued a warning against Binance, stating that the cryptocurrency exchange was not licensed or registered to offer securities, after which Binance issued a statement to say that it would restrict Hong Kong users from trading derivative products.

Responding to MAS’ notice on Binance.com, Binance Singapore, which operates under Binance Asia Services, said the notice has “no direct impact” on the services it provides. 

“Binance Singapore (Binance.sg) is a separate legal entity from Binance.com, with its own local executive and management team and does not offer any products or services via the Binance.com website or other related entities, and vice versa.

"Binance Singapore is solely focused on growing the Singapore cryptocurrency ecosystem and servicing users in Singapore,” Binance Singapore said in a statement. 

In a separate statement, Binance.com said it is “actively working with the MAS to address concerns that they may have through constructive dialogue” and the company takes a “collaborative approach” in working with regulators. 

“We take our compliance obligations very seriously. We are actively keeping abreast of changing policies, rules and laws in this new space. We will work closely with MAS and other global regulators to comply with the relevant regulatory standards,” the statement said. 

Binance Asia Services is currently exempted from holding a licence under Singapore's Payment Services Act for the provision of digital payment token services as its licence application is being reviewed.

It runs the Binance.sg platform, which offers Singaporeans and residents here trading pairs in Bitcoin, Ethereum and Binance Coin. It also provides Singapore-dollar deposit and withdrawal functionality via payments platform Xfers Direct.

Last month, Binance Singapore announced the appointment of MAS veteran Richard Teng as its new chief executive. Mr Teng was with MAS for 13 years and last served as its director of corporate finance. He was also chief regulatory officer at the Singapore Exchange.