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Singapore Dollar and Bitcoin the Same Under AML/CFT Laws: Deputy PM

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:03 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:03 PM

Singaporean laws do not make any distinction between transactions involving fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin under money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, the country’s deputy prime minister said yesterday.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the central bank, was speaking at a parliamentary session on Monday when he was asked by MP Foo Mee Har about how authorities could enforce anti-money laundering laws and counter-financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws on cryptocurrency transactions with a specific focus on bitcoin.

What are the ‘levers’ available, she asked, to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and law enforcement agencies to enforce AML/CFL financing laws for bitcoin transactions where conventional regulatory oversight of traditional markets do not apply.

In response, the deputy prime minister stated in no uncertain terms:

“When it comes to money laundering or terrorism financing, Singapore’s laws do not make any distinction between transactions effected using fiat currency, virtual currency or other novel ways of transmitting value…   Hence, MAS’ AML/CFT requirements apply to all activities of financial institutions, whether conducted in fiat or virtual currencies.”

Despite issuing a recent caution to investors getting into cryptocurrencies, Singapore’s central bank is pressing ahead with regulation that will bring a number of retail payment services, including bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges, under the singular regulation of its Payment Services Bill. Under the regulatory framework, all payment services will be overseen in a single legislation wherein t he authority will have oversight into cryptocurrency exchanges and bitcoin trading platforms. The second public consultation of framework came to an end on Monday.

Shanmugaratnam referenced the bill in his response , confirming the central bank’s intention to impose and mandate AML/CFT requirements on  intermediaries. “[A]t some stage, fiat currency will have to be exchanged for virtual currency, or vice versa, at intermediaries that sell or exchange virtual currency,” the official said.

Finally, the deputy prime minister stressed that the “still evolving” virtual currency space is being watched closely by the MAS as it determines a balanced approach that fosters innovation in the space.

He stated:

“Like most innovations, it 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. “

Featured image from Shutterstock.