Bill to bolster checks in gem deals, fight crime and improve security

All regulated dealers of precious stones and metals, like diamonds, jade, silver and gold, will have to conduct stricter customer due diligence checks when handling transactions.
All regulated dealers of precious stones and metals, like diamonds, jade, silver and gold, will have to conduct stricter customer due diligence checks when handling transactions.PHOTO: REUTERS

Jewellery retailers and dealers of precious metals and stones, including second-hand dealers and auction houses, will have to register with the Law Ministry under a proposed law introduced in Parliament yesterday.

Registration of the dealers of precious stones and metals, like diamonds, jade, silver and gold, is expected to start in the second quarter of this year.

There are about 2,500 of them and after the Precious Stones and Precious Metals (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Bill has been passed, they have to register within six months of its enforcement.

The Bill introduced by Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong stipulates that dealers have to carry out stricter due diligence checks on customers when handling transactions, as part of efforts to boost Singapore's standards of anti-money laundering and counter the financing of terrorism.

This includes performing risk assessments of customers and transactions and also having internal procedures to mitigate risks.

This will combat crime and improve security, both at home and across the world, the ministry said in a statement.

The portability of precious stones and metals and ease of converting their high value into cash expose the industry to the risk of money laundering and terrorism financing, it added.

 
 

The proposed changes will also cover goods like watches or luxury items in which more than 50 per cent of the finished product's value come from precious stones or metal.

This is the first time specific rules have been proposed to regulate the industry against the threat of money laundering and terrorism financing. However, existing measures under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act require dealers to submit cash transaction reports for deals exceeding $20,000 and suspicious transaction reports.

There have been more suspicious transaction reports in the last few years, according to figures from the Commercial Affairs Department, from the financial sector, including banks, money changers and insurance companies.

The white-collar crime unit received 35,471 reports of suspicious transactions in 2017, a 22 per cent rise since 2014.

More cash transaction reports were also made in 2017: 380,553, which is a 3 per cent increase over the previous year.

Two other Bills were introduced yesterday.

An amendment to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act requires cigarette packs sold in Singapore to have a standardised drab, dark brown appearance.

They cannot carry logos or promotional information, and images showing the ill-effects of smoking must cover at least three-quarters of the pack, up from half.

Changes in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners (Amendment) Bill requirepractitioners to upgrade their knowledge, as with mainstream doctors. The maximum fine for errant practitioners will be raised, from $10,000 to $50,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2019, with the headline 'Bill to bolster checks in gem deals, fight crime and improve security'. Print Edition | Subscribe