Strengthening AML/CFT Compliance in Singapore's Financial Landscape

In Singapore, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regulations are key to safeguarding the integrity and stability of financial systems. These regulations help prevent financial institutions, including emerging fintech firms, from being misused for illegal activities like money laundering and terrorism funding.

Understanding Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Risks

Money laundering involves disguising the origin of funds obtained illegally, whereas terrorism financing pertains to funding activities that support terrorist acts. Both pose serious risks, exploiting global financial systems and necessitating stringent compliance measures.

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Requirements

Know Your Customer (KYC) Procedures

Customer Identification and Verification

  • Singapore’s Monetary Authority (MAS) requires financial institutions to conduct thorough checks to confirm the identities of their clients as outlined in MAS Notice 626 and 1014. This foundational step is crucial in preventing financial crimes.

Screening Against Sanctions and Watchlists

  • Financial institutions must screen customers, their representatives, connected parties, and beneficial owners against relevant money laundering and terrorism financing sources. This includes lists provided by the MAS or other authorities in Singapore. Screening must occur:
    • When establishing business relations.
    • For transactions exceeding S$20,000 with new customers.
    • When receiving funds via domestic or cross-border wire transfers over $1,500.
    • Periodically after establishing business relations.
    • Whenever there are updates to relevant lists or changes in the customer’s representatives or beneficial owners.
  • This comprehensive screening ensures all associated parties are continuously monitored for any risks linked to financial crimes.

Risk-Based Approach to CDD

Assessing Customer Risk Profiles

  • A tailored approach based on the customer’s background, geographic location, and transaction nature helps in accurately assessing potential risks.

Enhanced Due Diligence for High-Risk Customers

  • For clients presenting higher risks, deeper investigations are required, often necessitating approvals from higher management.

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Ongoing Monitoring and Transaction Monitoring

Constant review of client transactions aids in spotting suspicious patterns that may suggest illegal financial activities.

Reporting Obligations

Cash Transaction Reports (CTRs)

Financial institutions must report cash transactions exceeding a specified threshold directly to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). This threshold varies by the type of financial institution but is generally set to capture significant cash movements that could indicate money laundering activities.

Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs)

Identifying and Reporting Suspicious Activities

Any activity that seems unusual or without clear economic or lawful purpose must be reported to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (STRO). This includes transactions that exceed normal customer patterns or involve high-risk jurisdictions.

Tipping-off Provisions

It is illegal to notify anyone about the submission of an STR to protect the confidentiality of ongoing probes.

Record Keeping and Data Protection

Mandatory retention of comprehensive financial records for periods typically ranging from 5 to 7 years facilitates future audits and investigations. Robust measures are required to ensure the security and confidentiality of customer data, preventing unauthorized access or data breaches.


A comprehensive AML/CFT program is not merely regulatory—it’s fundamental to protecting the institution's integrity and reputation. Staying informed and responsive to regulatory updates is crucial for maintaining an effective compliance posture.

This overview showcases the extensive and detailed framework of AML/CFT regulations in Singapore, emphasizing the ongoing commitment required from financial institutions to safeguard against evolving threats and ensure a secure financial environment.

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