As of 1 July 2013, financial institutions are required by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to file Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) on any assets they know or have reasonable grounds to suspect are proceeds of the tax offences designated under the recently amended Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA).

The impact that the changes to the law would have on the finance industry were addressed at a breakfast talk organised by ACCA Singapore that was held on Friday, 26 July 2013.  A highlight of the talk was a panel discussion that featured a number of experts in the finance sector who provided their opinions on the impacts of these changes. 

Stephen Bruce, Financial Services Tax Partner at EY began the morning session with an overview of the new Anti-Money Laundering measures before taking part in the panel discussion. Mr Bruce said: “Anti-Money Laundering focuses on knowing your clients and their intentions. It is no longer just about the ‘who’, but also the ‘why’. Organizations need to recognize the red flags and what regulators are looking for. This is a substantial change and Singapore is leading the way with good momentum. Singapore will be expected to show enhanced due diligence and provide leadership to those that follow.”

Summing up the discussions, moderator of the panel discussion Mr Shanker Iyer, Founder and Chairman of the Iyer Practice commented, “We are 26 days into the new regulations and so far we have seen the changes handled calmly and smoothly. Singapore’s international reputation as a financial centre has certainly been enhanced by the far reaching changes which have been implemented. However I believe there are still underlying issues that relevant financial institutions are looking to the Monetary Authority of Singapore for more practical guidance, for example in the area of risk assessments connected with serious tax crimes.

Singapore has attracted a great deal of wealth over the last few decades and it is likely to take financial institutions quite some time to review all their customer accounts for compliance with the new changes.”

President of the ACCA Singapore Branch, Wilson Woo said, “ACCA supports the measures that the MAS have implemented. It further emphasises Singapore’s commitment to safeguard the country’s financial system from being used to harbour proceeds from tax crimes. While Singapore continues to strive towards its goal in becoming a regional accounting hub by 2020, this process continues to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Singapore is serious in maintaining her reputation as a world-class, trustworthy and safe place for business”.