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Singapore government and industry team up to tackle money laundering

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force will set up a partnership with industry and regulators to fight money laundering and terrorism financing. 27 Apr 2017

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Industry Partnership (ACIP) will invite industry partners, regulators, law enforcement agencies and other government entities to "identify, assess and mitigate" the threats facing Singapore and improve the detection and mitigation of transnational risks "arising from Singapore's position as an international financial centre and trade hub", MAS said.

Working groups within ACIP will look into different risk areas, reporting to a steering group made up of eight banks plus the Association of Banks in Singapore. Industry participants will be invited to contribute to the working groups, and MAS and CAD will co-chair the steering group.

David Chew, director of CAD said: "Financial crime typologies are evolving rapidly. Countries must explore smarter and more effective ways to combat such crimes. ACIP will be a key enabler in this endeavour. We encourage and welcome industry members from both within and outside the financial sector to contribute actively to the work of the ACIP, as well as share the relevant products and best practices with the rest of the financial industry."

Anti-corruption and corporate crime expert Neil McInnes, of Pinsent Masons MPillay the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, said: "The joint announcement by the Singapore authorities of this public-private sector task force on anti-money laundering (AML) and countering terrorism financing reflects global trends in the fight against dirty money and corruption and other initiatives promoting cross-border transparency, when sharing of intelligence between financial institutions and regulators is critical."

"It also reflects the realpolitik that effective enforcement is only possible with regular communication amongst the stakeholders," McInnes said.

"In this context, these programmes go far beyond simple outreach work by law enforcement agencies. They reflect the need for leading financial markets such as Singapore to pool resources, and to harness the use of technology, so that the combined insights of banks and other industry participants on  money laundering typologies and other suspicious transaction supports, and is supported by, regulators," he said.

Tax expert Valerie Wu, also of Pinsent Masons MPillay said: "This is a strong signal towards deterring tax evasion and significantly bolsters Singapore's image as a trusted and responsible financial centre. The international Financial Action Task Force recently commented that Singapore has a strong legal and institutional AML and counter-terrorist financing framework in place but there are still gaps in its effectiveness, particularly in larger transnational cases – the ACIP must be intended to close this gap."

Singapore's Ministry of Law proposed changes to Singapore's Trustees Act in January, aiming to make the ownership and control of trusts more transparent in an attempt to counter money laundering, the financing of terrorism and tax evasion.

MAS set up a dedicated AML department in August, along with a separate department to strengthen the enforcement of its regulations.

MAS already had a "robust regime" in place to counter the risk of Singapore's financial sector being used for money laundering and terrorist financing, but international finance is increasingly complex  and there is a need for greater supervision, MAS said in June.