Anti-Money Laundering (AML) in Singapore: What are the Compliances and Regulations? [2023 Edition]

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Anti-Money Laundering (AML) in Singapore: What are the Compliances and Regulations? [2023 Edition]


Money laundering is a major worldwide issue that has an impact on many nations. Due to the fact that Singapore is not exempt from these illicit behaviors, financial institutions, payment service providers, and other relevant industries must abide by a number of anti-money laundering (AML) legislation that the nation has put in place. The legal framework for anti-money laundering (AML) in Singapore, the kinds of reports that must be filed, the sanctions for non-compliance, and the enforcement strategy will all be covered in this article. To defend against potential criminal activity and to help Singapore maintain its reputation as a reliable global financial center, it is crucial to comprehend these precautions.

Importance of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Measures

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures play a crucial role in Singapore's efforts to combat criminal activities such as money laundering and terrorism financing. As a leading financial hub with an open economy, Singapore faces potential risks associated with these illegal activities.

Singapore has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The government, along with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has established a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework to ensure effective AML compliance. Singapore collaborates with global partners to combat money laundering by adhering to international standards.

Singapore's Commitment to Combat Money Laundering

Singapore is a committed member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APGML), reflecting its dedication to the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.

The latest development in Singapore's AML regulations includes the enhanced suspicious transaction reporting system, which now requires financial institutions and professional service providers to submit more detailed and accurate reports on any suspicious transactions. It is crucial for businesses planning to launch in Singapore to comply with all relevant AML regulations and guidelines to avoid financial penalties and criminal proceedings.

Laws and Regulations Governing AML Compliance in Singapore

Singapore's regulatory framework covers a wide range of sectors, including real estate agents, financial advisers, and legal practitioners, as well as industries involving cash movements, money transfers, and precious stones/metals.

To enforce AML compliance, Singapore relies on the MAS as the central regulatory authority. The MAS has established legislation and regulations by several regulatory bodies, including the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) responsible for overseeing AML efforts in the country. The key AML regulations and guidelines in Singapore include:

Financial institutions are required to comply with AML regulations by submitting various types of reports, such as those on cash transactions, suspicious transactions, and financing related to terrorism. Documentation requirements include customer identification and verification, record-keeping, and ongoing monitoring of business relationships.

Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (PML/CFT) Act

The Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (PML/CFT) Act was enacted in Singapore to combat financial crime. The act applies to all financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions within the country.

Financial institutions must implement strong anti-money laundering measures, which include customer due diligence and ongoing transaction monitoring, as mandated by regulations. They must also file suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and cash transaction reports (CTRs) with the authorities.

Non-financial businesses and professions, such as real estate agents and lawyers, are upheld and required to take measures to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. These measures involve performing customer due diligence, submitting suspicious transaction reports (STRs), and keeping transaction records.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Standards

Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and adheres to its recommendations in combatting money laundering and terrorism financing.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body that sets global standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures to fight money laundering, terrorism financing, and other threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Measures

Singapore's AML regulations require financial institutions and payment service providers to comply with Customer Due Diligence (CDD) requirements, which include identifying and verifying the identity of customers.

To identify individual customers, full name and a unique identification number like NRIC or passport number must be collected. For legal persons or arrangements, the legal name and registered address must be obtained.

The authenticity of the information is ensured by verifying the documentary evidence provided by the customer. Face-to-face interviews are conducted for higher-risk customers.

External services such as credit bureaus and sanctions lists (criminal sanctions for example) can be used to verify customer information. Ongoing monitoring is necessary to identify any change in the customer's risk profile and ensure compliance with AML regulations.

Hence, financial institutions and payment service providers should develop adequate AML controls and an effective AML committee to ensure compliance.

Types of Reports Required for AML Compliance

Suspicious Transaction Reporting (STR): Financial institutions must report any transactions that raise suspicions of money laundering or terrorism financing.

STRs must be filed when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction is connected to drug dealing, criminal conduct, or terrorism financing. 

Cash Transaction Reporting (CTR): Large cash transactions exceeding specified thresholds must be reported to the authorities.

Terrorism Financing Reporting (TFR): Any knowledge or suspicion of funds related to terrorism financing must be reported.

These reporting obligations are mandated under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes Act and the Payment Services Act.

Record Keeping Requirements for Financial Institutions

Financial institutions are required to maintain accurate records of customer transactions and due diligence efforts for a specified period.

These records aid in investigations and audits conducted by the authorities.

Business Relationship Documentation Requirements

Financial institutions must document the nature of their business relationships with customers, including the purpose and intended nature of the relationship.

Suspicious Transactions Documentation Requirements

Financial institutions must document their assessments, investigations, and decisions concerning suspicious transactions.

Risks Associated with Non-Compliance with AML Regulations in Singapore

Both individuals and companies can face financial penalties for engaging in money laundering or terrorist financing activities. Financial institutions and designated businesses are also subject to varying levels of sanctions.

Sanctions may also be imposed on financial institutions and designated businesses for non-compliance with AML regulations. These may include restrictions on business activities, suspension or revocation of licenses, and enhanced supervision.

It is crucial for all parties involved in financial transactions to adhere to AML regulations to avoid potential financial penalties and sanctions. Individuals and companies must maintain robust systems and controls to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing activities.

Case Study: The 1MDB Scandal

The 1MDB scandal is a financial scandal involving the Malaysian government's investment fund. Singapore played a significant role in uncovering the scandal and took action to strengthen its anti-money laundering (AML) controls. This scandal involved the misappropriation of billions of dollars from the Malaysian government investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Then what happened?

In 2015-2016, Singaporean authorities began investigating suspicious transactions related to 1MDB-linked funds and found multiple instances of money laundering. They also discovered that various banks and financial institutions had failed to report these transactions. As a result, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) imposed hefty fines on several banks and revoked the license of one bank.

The prosecution related to the scandal expanded globally, including in the United States, Switzerland, and Malaysia. Singaporean authorities cooperated with the other countries' investigations and seized millions of dollars of assets related to the scandal. The scandal led to a strengthening of Singapore's AML controls, including the introduction of a cash transaction reporting regime and strengthening the regulatory framework for trade finance.

The lessons learned from the 1MDB scandal showed the importance of international cooperation in uncovering money laundering and financial crimes. Singapore's actions demonstrated its commitment to combatting money laundering and implementing effective AML controls.

Future Outlook and Challenges

The AML landscape is constantly evolving, necessitating ongoing vigilance and adaptation of AML regulations and controls. Singapore aims to stay at the forefront of global AML efforts by actively monitoring emerging risks and adopting innovative approaches.

Technological innovations have played a crucial role in enhancing anti-money laundering (AML) compliance. The use of RegTech and other innovative solutions has significantly improved AML processes by streamlining KYC (know your customer) checks, detecting suspicious transactions, and reducing human error.

RegTech solutions like AI-powered risk management tools, machine learning algorithms, and blockchain technology have revolutionized how financial institutions and payment service providers comply with AML requirements. These solutions enable real-time monitoring of transactions, which helps to detect and prevent money laundering and terrorism financing activities.

The benefits of implementing technological innovations in AML compliance include cost reduction, improved efficiency, and increased accuracy of compliance processes. Moreover, it helps companies to comply with regulations efficiently and effectively and avoids severe financial penalties for non-compliance.

However, implementing technological innovations in AML compliance also presents some challenges. The cost of complying with regulatory requirements is high, and integrating new technology can be expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, companies may face difficulty in attracting and retaining employees with technological expertise.

Cooperation with International Partners

Singapore recognizes the importance of international cooperation in its efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

The country has ratified several international agreements and conventions, such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations. Singapore also works closely with international organizations and bodies, including the Egmont Group and Interpol, to strengthen cooperation in this area.

Through these partnerships, Singapore facilitates the exchange of financial intelligence and information with foreign counterparts, assists in investigations and prosecutions, and provides training and assistance to other jurisdictions. Singapore's Financial Intelligence Unit also receives and analyzes suspicious transaction reports from foreign counterparts and assists in freezing terrorist assets.

The country's commitment to international cooperation in anti-money laundering measures is evidenced by its participation in joint international operations, such as the recent Operation Vulcan, which targeted illegal online gambling sites operating across Asia. Singapore's anti-money laundering framework is constantly evolving to keep pace with new threats and developments in technology, and the country remains dedicated to working with international partners to ensure a robust and effective global response to financial crime.


In conclusion, Singapore has demonstrated a strong commitment to combat money laundering activities through its comprehensive AML regulations and guidelines. Financial institutions, payment service providers and other relevant entities are obligated to report any suspicious transactions and maintain a risk-based approach to enforcement.

Looking to the future, the AML landscape is evolving, with technological innovations bringing changes and challenges. Advancements such as digital platforms and cryptocurrencies are creating new opportunities for money laundering schemes, making it increasingly important for AML controls to adapt and integrate with new technologies.

As Singapore continues to enhance its regulatory framework and AML controls, businesses must remain vigilant in their compliance efforts, acknowledging the risks associated without falling foul of legal and regulatory guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the reporting obligations under AML regulations in Singapore?

Financial institutions and payment service providers are required to report suspicious transactions or activities to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office. They may also need to submit cash transaction reports for transactions above a certain amount.

What are the compliance requirements for AML regulations in Singapore?

Financial institutions and payment service providers must have AML policies, procedures, and controls in place that comply with the regulations. They must also perform customer due diligence, ongoing monitoring, and screening for high-risk customers.

How is Singapore evaluated for its AML efforts by outside organizations such as the FATF?

Singapore has been evaluated highly by the FATF for its risk-based approach to enforcement of AML regulations. However, it has been advised to enhance its supervision and enforcement of non-financial sectors like real estate agents and precious stones and metals dealers, which are also vulnerable to money laundering and terrorism financing risks.

Read also: Can S Pass and EP Holders Incorporate a Company in Singapore?

Read also: Navigating Singapore's Budget 2023: What Businesses Need to Know

Read also: Comprehensive Guide: How to Obtain a Garnishee Order and Protect Your Rights


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UPDATED AS OF 30 May 2024
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