Steps to ensure charity funds are not used for financing terror

Charities abroad have been increasingly used for terrorism or terrorist financing purposes, said the Commissioner of Charities in its latest annual report.

That is why the Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) has been stepping up outreach efforts this year to help charities in Singapore protect themselves.

In May this year, it published the latest guide on "Protecting Your Charity Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing" on the Charity Portal and this was shared with all registered charities via e-mail. It is an updated version of a 2013 guide.

The guide complements amended regulations on money laundering and terrorism financing that were implemented from May this year by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, for financial institutions.

"While there is currently no evidence that charities in Singapore have been misused for money laundering or terrorism financing, charities can be attractive targets for money launderers and terrorist organisations," said a COC spokesman.

"The abuse of charities for money laundering or terrorism may take various forms, including exploiting charitable funding, abusing charity assets, misusing a charity's name and status, and setting up a charity for illegal purposes," he added.

The COC will raise awareness of the risks of abuse through holding conferences and small group sessions where the guides will be distributed. It also plans to send out regular e-mail containing case studies of abuse as a reminder.

One overseas case, for example, involved a charity that claimed to raise funds for humanitarian relief in an area of conflict.

The charity used collection boxes outside religious institutions to solicit donations and the funds were held in a domestic bank account.

However, the founder of the charity was suspected of diverting the funds raised to facilitate terrorism and was arrested. While there has been no conviction so far, US$60,000 (S$84,201) in collected funds were seized.

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Steps to ensure charity funds are not used for financing terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe