Reply to Parliamentary Question on AML/CFT enforcement on virtual currency transactions

QUESTION NO 1659

NOTICE PAPER 984 OF 2017

FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

Date: For Parliament Sitting on 8 January 2018

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Foo Mee Har, MP, West Coast GRC

Question:

To ask the Prime Minister what levers are available to MAS and law enforcement agencies to enforce anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws that use bitcoin currency where conventional oversight mechanisms of the real money market do not apply.

Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:

1   Ms Foo asked how MAS and law enforcement agencies can enforce anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws on bitcoin currency transactions. 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.

2   Hence, MAS’ AML/CFT requirements apply to all activities of financial institutions, whether conducted in fiat or virtual currencies. The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is empowered to investigate and prosecute all manner of ML/TF cases. Everyone is required under the law to report suspicious transactions, which they come across in the course of their trade, profession, business or employment, to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office in CAD. 

3   MAS recognises that virtual currency transactions, given their anonymous nature, may be used to conceal illicit movement of funds. Further, the absence of a central clearing house for such transactions makes enforcement challenging, as it is difficult to identify the parties upon which enforcement orders can be applied.

4   However, at some stage, fiat currency will have to be exchanged for virtual currency, or vice versa, at intermediaries that buy, sell or exchange virtual currency. MAS therefore intends to impose AML/CFT requirements on such intermediaries. MAS is currently conducting public consultation on a proposed Payment Services Bill that will empower us to do this.

5   The virtual currency space is still evolving. 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. 

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Last Modified on 08/01/2018