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Maximum jail term for money laundering raised to 10 years

SINGAPORE — As part of efforts to dampen transnational money-laundering activities, Parliament yesterday passed amendments to laws, allowing the Government to deal more swiftly with criminal operations and deprive perpetrators of their illicit gains.

SINGAPORE — As part of efforts to dampen transnational money-laundering activities, Parliament yesterday passed amendments to laws, allowing the Government to deal more swiftly with criminal operations and deprive perpetrators of their illicit gains.

Some of the changes to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act include increasing the maximum penalty for money laundering from seven to 10 years in jail and lowering the threshold for cross-border cash reporting by a third.

Amendments were also made to make it easier to investigate and prosecute foreign predicate offences, which are crimes that generate criminal proceeds for laundering. For instance, instead of having to first obtain a certificate from a foreign country establishing the offence, enforcement agencies here can now accept other evidence such as court judgments and statements by experts.

“Money laundering is a sophisticated international scourge that requires a comprehensive suite of countermeasures to effectively detect and combat,” said Mr S Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry. “To prevent such criminal activities from taking root in our financial system, our laws have to remain up to date, possess sufficient deterrence and facilitate international cooperation.”

Five Members of Parliament (MPs) rose to voice their support for the amendments, but also raised concerns. Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim and Nominated MP Tan Su Shan highlighted the monetary and administrative costs of compliance. Ms Tan also said there was a need to monitor non-finance sectors such as the high-end property and jewellery markets, which are just as susceptible to money-laundering activities. She also asked how virtual currency space such as the use of bitcoin could be monitored.

Acknowledging her suggestions, Mr Iswaran said the Monetary Authority of Singapore was currently studying the appropriate regulatory regime to be put in place and would consult the industry in due course.

Mr Iswaran added that the costs of compliance would be lower if focus was “tighter”. “The larger the focus ... then the burden in terms of compliance will be far greater,” he said. “We are trying to find the balance that will impose a reasonable burden of compliance on industry players to preserve the overall integrity of the system, which is something they value as an asset for their business.”

Another change to the Act is expanding it to include the precious-stones and metal-dealers sector, such that dealers are required to verify a customer’s identity and file a report with the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office for cash sales exceeding S$20,000. Such cash transaction records and the relevant supporting documents are to be kept for five years from the date of filing.

The dual criminality requirement for foreign tax evasion offences will also be removed, as long as the offence is criminalised in the foreign jurisdiction and is committed “wilfully” with the intent to evade tax.

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