Singapore: Deputy prime minister clarifies anti-money laundering rules for bitcoin
15 Jan 2018

Singapore applies the same anti-money laundering (AML) rules for traditional or fiat currency as it does for virtual currencies, Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in response to a parliamentary question on AML enforcement in crypto transactions.

Shanmugaratnam, who is also the minister in charge of regulator the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) was responding to a question from Ms Foo Mee Har, MP, West Coast GRC, about how MAS and law enforcement agencies can enforce AML and counter-financing of terrorism (CFT) laws on bitcoin currency transactions.

“MAS’ AML/CFT requirements apply to all activities of financial institutions, whether conducted in fiat or virtual currencies,” he said.

“The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is empowered to investigate and prosecute all manner of ML/TF cases.”

“Everyone is required under the law to report suspicious transactions, which they come across in the course of their trade, profession, business or employment, to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office in CAD.”

MAS is also planning to impose AML/CFT requirements on intermediaries that buy, sell or exchange virtual currency and it is currently conducting a public consultation on a proposed Payment Services Bill for this enforcement.

With cryptocurrency trading increasing in market value and popularity, regulators from different parts of the world have been outlining their stance, in many cases warning members of the public not to invest in such platforms because of issues such as price volatility, risk and the fact that they are not regulated.

In his parliamentary response, Shanmugaratnam said: “MAS recognises that virtual currency transactions, given their anonymous nature, may be used to conceal illicit movement of funds.

“Further, the absence of a central clearing house for such transactions makes enforcement challenging, as it is difficult to identify the parties upon which enforcement orders can be applied.”

However, like most innovations, he said, “the virtual space presents new opportunities as well as risks. MAS is closely watching these developments and studying the approaches taken in other jurisdictions.”

“The basic idea is for our policies and rules to foster innovation while mitigating risks, including from ML/TF.”

Related topics:

‘Volatile’ bitcoin is not a cryptocurrency – Bank of France

Singapore seeks to become front-runner in the virtual currency arena

Singapore consults on money laundering risks to payment services

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