New rules for housing developers to prevent money laundering

Housing developers will bear more responsibilities and duties to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing from happening in the real estate sector under a Bill passed in Parliament yesterday.

This, along with other proposed changes in the Developers (Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Bill, will bring Singapore's anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime in line with international standards, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

Under the amendments, developers will need to carry out due diligence checks on purchasers, keep proper records relating to these checks, and report any suspicious transactions to Suspicious Transaction Reporting Officers. They will also need to train employees and establish processes to mitigate money laundering and terrorism financing risks.

The Bill will make amendments to the Housing Developers (Control and Licensing) Act and the Sale of Commercial Properties Act.

The changes include barring people convicted for money laundering and terrorism financing from being licensed housing developers, and disqualifying them from holding responsible positions at development firms. The Controller of Housing, who administers regulations related to developers, will also be given enforcement powers to ensure compliance with the new provisions.

Developers will need to keep records of their diligence checks for at least five years after the transaction is completed, said Mr Wong in response to Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), who asked about the time period and expressed concern that storage of such data would increase business costs. Mr Wong said the prescribed period was consistent with international recommendations as well as legislation in other sectors, such as for pawnbrokers and financial institutions.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) also asked whether the increased cost of compliance on developers would inadvertently be passed on to consumers.


In reply, Mr Wong said: "We recognise the industry's concerns about the compliance costs. In tabling this Bill, we have been careful to strike a balance between complying with the requirements recommended by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and ensuring that the burden on developers is not excessive."

He said the ministry will continue to engage the industry for feedback as it finalises the finer implementation details of the Bill.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2018, with the headline 'New rules for housing developers to prevent money laundering'. Print Edition | Subscribe