Singapore Tightens Casino Cash Transactions to Curb Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering

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The shimmering island city-state of Singapore, known for its fastidious regulatory framework, is tightening its reins on casino cash transactions in a strategic move to curtail terrorism financing and money laundering, as noted by the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) on a brisk Monday announcement. The existing threshold for due diligence checks on cash deposits, currently set at S$5K (approximately US$3.6K), is set to topple significantly to S$4K (US$3K), a figure substantially lower than U.S. casinos, where a transaction of US$10K or more paves the way for a currency transaction report (CTR).

Known for its ultramodern architecture, Singapore harbors two colossal casino complexes, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, making it the runner-up to Macau in the race of Asia’s most towering gaming market. In the winter of 2023, Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa was slapped with the GRA’s heftiest fine of S$2.25 million (US$1.7 million) for the oversight of skipping due diligence on cash transactions that eclipsed the $5K mark.

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The revamped regulations expected to be ready for rollout sometime this year are calibrated to bring Singapore in harmony with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards, an intergovernmental body that oversees global operations aimed at combating money laundering. The GRA kept the exact date under wraps yet highlighted that the measures pull together a facet of the strategies against money laundering in Singapore’s recently updated blueprint for countering terrorism financing.

Being a buzzing hub for international finance, business, and transportation, unfortunately, makes Singapore a vulnerable target for money laundering endeavors and terrorism financing. Jihadist groups, namely ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Jemaah Islamiah, as well as self-radicalized beings nurturing a soft spot for them, were listed as key threats. An upsurge in far-right extremism was also flagged as a mounting security concern by the report.

Despite the prudency and methodical nature of Singapore’s security systems, terrorist intentions, although diminished to a great extent, are still a menace. Back in 2021, authorities thwarted an unnerving plan hatched by a national serviceman to attack worshippers at a local synagogue. Simultaneously, there was an unsuccessful far-right extremist plot to assault a city mosque.

A more visceral shock rippled through the nation upon the recent discovery of a massive money laundering operation, a convoluted network of Chinese nationals who maneuvered a staggering US$2.2 billion through Singapore’s banking system. The illicit earnings from overseas scams and illegal online gambling were cleverly transformed into upscale real estate, plush vehicles, and ornate jewelry. This alarming discovery led to a scrupulous reassessment of the banking regulations in the robust financial axis.