1. The Serious Crimes and Counter-Terrorism (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018 was introduced for First Reading in Parliament today.
2. The Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA) criminalises the laundering of benefits from serious criminal offences and provides for powers to investigate and confiscate benefits from money laundering offences. The Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSOFA) criminalises the provision of property and services for terrorist purposes and provides powers to seize and confiscate terrorist property. This Bill seeks to amend the CDSA and TSOFA so as to strengthen our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing frameworks.
3. The proposed legislative amendments will enable Singapore to more effectively tackle money laundering and terrorism financing, which are usually complex and transnational in nature. They will ensure that our laws remain relevant to the current operating landscape, and give us legislative powers to detect and neutralise criminal and terrorist operations quickly, and deprive the perpetrators of their illicit funds.
4. The proposed changes to the CDSA and TSOFA will:
- Strengthen the Government’s ability to enforce and prosecute offences relating to money laundering and terrorism financing;
- Enhance penalties for offences relating to money laundering and terrorism financing for greater deterrence; and
- Facilitate sharing of financial intelligence with foreign jurisdictions.
5. The key amendments are summarised below:
A. Strengthen the Government’s Ability to Enforce and Prosecute Offences Relating to Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing
- The Bill proposes to create a new money laundering offence under the CDSA. It will be an offence to possess or use property reasonably suspected of being criminal proceeds and not being able to satisfactorily account for it. With this, we will be able to prosecute, for example, money mules who transport criminal proceeds for organised syndicates.
- The Bill proposes to introduce a presumption clause such that an act that is committed abroad, which amounts to a drug dealing or serious offence if committed in Singapore, will be presumed to be an offence in that foreign country, once the prosecution can adduce prima facie evidence. This will facilitate the prosecution of money laundering involving a foreign offence.
- The Bill proposes to expand the scope of activities prohibited under the TSOFA to include the financing of, and the provision/collection of funds to finance, the travel of an individual to engage in terrorist training. This will align our laws with obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 2178.
B. Enhance Penalties for Offences Relating to Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing
- Under the CDSA, it is an offence not to file a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) when one has reason to suspect that a property is linked to a drug dealing or serious offence. It is also an offence to tip off another person of a CDSA-related investigation or an STR filed with the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (STRO) of the Commercial Affairs Department. However, the current penalties for these offences are low compared to international benchmarks. For greater deterrence, the Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for failing to file an STR from a fine of $20,000 to $250,000 and three years’ imprisonment for individuals, and $500,000 for entities. For tipping off under the CDSA, the Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty from a fine of $30,000 to $250,000 and three years’ imprisonment for individuals, and to a fine of $250,000 for entities.
- The Bill also proposes to implement a wider range of penalties and pursue confiscation of undeclared cash for breaches of Singapore’s cross-border cash reporting requirements (CBCRR). Today, an individual is required to report to the Immigration officer if he brings in more than $20,000 of cash and bearer negotiable instruments into Singapore. The failure to report is an offence. Under the proposed amendments, the Police can compound the offence and offer composition fines of up to $20,000 for failure to report, while the Court can order the confiscation of the undeclared amount above $20,000, on conviction.
- The Bill proposes to increase the penalty under TSOFA against non-individuals, such as corporations, convicted of a terrorism financing offence. The proposed maximum fine will be the higher of (a) $1 million or (b) twice the value of the property involved or services rendered for terrorism financing. This means the maximum penalty can be enhanced beyond the current penalty of $1 million, depending on the property involved/services rendered for terrorism financing.
C. Facilitate Sharing of Financial Intelligence with Jurisdictions under International Arrangement
- Under the CDSA, STRO can share financial intelligence only with other Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) with which it has an arrangement or undertaking. The Bill proposes to amend the CDSA to allow STRO to also share information under an international arrangement. STRO intends to share financial intelligence with other jurisdictions which have endorsed the Egmont Charter and Principles for Information Exchange (“Egmont Documents”), which is an international arrangement to enhance cooperation between FIUs, including sharing of information. This will improve the sharing of information to tackle transnational crimes.