Singapore passes Bill to strengthen laws against financing of weapons of mass destruction

SINGAPORE: Singapore on Tuesday (Feb 6) passed amendments to existing laws to strengthen controls against proliferation financing, or financing aimed at evading sanctions and proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

The changes, proposed under the Prevention of Proliferation Financing and Other Matters Bill, would allow Singapore to adhere to updated requirements set out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terrorism financing watchdog. Singapore has been an FATF member since 1992 and currently holds the task force’s presidency.

The FATF defines proliferation financing as the act of providing funds or financial services for the manufacture, acquisition, possession, development, export, transshipment, brokering, transport, transfer, stockpiling or use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery and related materials, in contravention of national laws or international obligations.

Under the new standards set out by the FATF in 2020, countries and the private sector must assess and mitigate proliferation financing risks related to the “potential breaches, non-implementation or evasion” of targeted financial sanctions.

Apart from the financial sector, the FATF also noted the important role played by other non-financial sectors in combatting flows of dirty money, said the Law Ministry’s (MinLaw) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Rahayu Mahzam as she tabled the Bill for a second reading.

Business activities in these sectors include dealing in precious stones and metals, moneylending, pawnbroking and providing legal services.

“As a regulator of these sectors, MinLaw regularly reviews our laws to ensure that they remain relevant, effective and fully in line with the latest international standards set by the FATF,” said Ms Rahayu.

Hence, the Bill covered changes to four Acts, namely the Precious Stones and Precious Metals (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act, the Moneylenders Act, the Pawnbrokers Act and the Legal Profession Act.

The Bill proposed updating the regulatory regimes of these sectors and requiring businesses or persons covered by the Acts to implement adequate measures to combat proliferation financing.

Examples of the measures include performing risk assessment, as well as developing and implementing internal policies, procedures and controls.

Among others, the Bill included amendments to prevent people from obtaining licences or holding management roles in moneylending and pawnbroking businesses if they were previously convicted of offences relating to the prevention of financial crimes.

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