Representational image. Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) said on July 1 that adjustments have been made to prevent the misuse of casinos for terror financing in Singapore. As per the new rules, the gambling facilities will have to conduct due diligence checks when receiving cash deposits of SGD 4,000 or more. This threshold was previously set to SGD 5,000.

Representational image. Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Casinos will now look into a customer’s bank accounts as soon as it crosses the new threshold. “The adjustment is made so that Singapore casinos can better combat money laundering and terrorism financing and align our requirements with FATF standards,” the GRA said on Monday, as quoted by CNA. Founded in 1989, the Financial Action Task Force is an intergovernmental watchdog that combats money laundering and terror financing.

However, the exact time for the implementation of the new rule hasn’t been stated yet.

Last December, Resorts World Sentosa copped an SGD 2.25 million fine for failing to do its due diligence checks. This remains the biggest fine imposed by the GRA on a casino operator, reports said.

The new rule was among the measures stated in Singapore’s updated National Strategy for Countering the Financing of Terrorism, jointly published on Monday by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). As per the recent Money Laundering National Risk Assessment report, bringing down the threshold from SGD 5,000 to SDG 4,000 would align with FATF standards.

Terrorist may exploit economic openness

The joint release stated: “Terrorist actors may exploit Singapore’s economic openness as an international financial, business, and transport hub for TF [terror financing] purposes. There is therefore a need for constant vigilance. Furthermore, as the global terrorism landscape evolves, Singapore’s TF risks will evolve too, hence this refreshed assessment and strategy.”

“Singapore has developed and implemented a systematic and comprehensive whole-of-government approach to identify, monitor, and mitigate TF risks. The security, intelligence (including financial intelligence), law enforcement, supervisory, and regulatory agencies constantly scan for existing and emerging TF risks, informed by TF cases in Singapore, international reports, and feedback from foreign counterparts on observed TF risks with a Singapore nexus. We also actively engage and cooperate with the private sector and academia to enhance our understanding of TF risks,” it added.

What are the key threats?

Authorities have identified two areas as key threats in Singapore.

(i) Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, as well as potential spillovers from the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and tensions in the Middle East.

(ii) Self-radicalised individuals who are sympathetic towards the cause of terrorist groups, in particular ISIS.

“Far-right extremism is also a growing security concern in many countries. While it has not gained significant traction in Southeast Asia, we cannot rule out that its anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric may resonate with some individuals,” the release stated.

On June 28, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam told reporters: “ISIS’ violent ideology continues to resonate in this region, and is fuelled by a virtual network of supporters.”

Law Minister K Shanmugam made the speech on Wednesday. Photo courtesy: Screengrab from YouTube
Law Minister K Shanmugam. Photo courtesy: Screengrab from YouTube

“Extremist narratives have radicalised many individuals, including here in Singapore. As long as these ideologies persist, they will continue to inspire attacks,” the Singaporean Law Minister said. He spoke four days after Malaysia arrested eight people, six men and two women, to thwart possible threats against the country’s government.

The key TF risk areas in 2024 are largely similar to those identified in 2020. They are:

(a) Money remittances remain at high risk, with cross-border online payments identified as a potential new channel for TF activities;

(b) Banks remain at medium-high risk, with new cross-border fast payment systems identified as a potential new channel for TF activities;

(c) Digital Payment Token service providers have been elevated from medium-low to medium-high risk;

(d) Non-Profit Organisations remain at medium-low risk, with foreign online crowdfunding identified as an emerging TF typology of concern;

(e) Cross border cash movements remain at medium-low risk; and

(f) Precious Stones, Precious Metals, and Precious Products remain at medium-low risk.

The 2024 TF NRA supports the refreshed objectives of Singapore’s National Strategy for CFT, launched in 2022, namely:

(a) Prevent: proactively deter prospective terrorists, terrorist organisations, and sympathisers from exploiting Singapore’s openness for TF activities;

(b) Detect: promptly detect and trace TF activities through robust monitoring and tracking of red flag indicators, especially in high-risk sectors and emerging TF typologies of concern; and

(c) Disrupt: resolutely enforce against terrorists, terrorist organisations, and sympathisers seeking to raise, move and use funds for terrorism activities, both locally and abroad.

Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at the FATF plenary
Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at the FATF plenary. Photo courtesy: X/@LawrenceWongST

To achieve the above objectives, Singapore will implement the refreshed five-pronged National Strategy for CFT:

(a) Coordinated and Comprehensive Risk Identification;

(b) Strong Legal and Sanctions Frameworks;

(c) Robust Regulatory Regimes;

(d) Decisive Enforcement Actions; and

(e) International Partnerships and Cooperation.

Singapore will continue to partner industry players to implement strategies and measures to tackle TF threats. Authorities will also closely collaborate with foreign counterparts, international organisations, and standard-setting bodies, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).