The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched a dedicated anti-money laundering (AML) unit.

The unit will have a clear focus on trade-based money laundering (TBML) as Singapore pursues its ambition to be seen as the Asia Pacific region’s prime trade hub.

Trade status
According to MAS, Singapore’s status as a trade hub makes it a natural conduit for money laundering and terrorist financing activities.

Because of this, Singapore wants to show that its systems for combatting money laundering are amongst the toughest and most advanced in the Asia Pacific region.

Officials at MAS say they are particularly keen to show that Singapore’s AML systems are at least equal to and in some respects ahead of Hong Kong’s and Australia’s.

TBML focus
The number of MAS on-site money laundering investigations has increased by a factor of six in the past three years, with 27 financial institutions being fined according to a MAS statement.

It says the authority is now working hard to counter TBML and define best practices in an area where officials say there is often little joined-up thinking.

The new AML unit was announced in June, but formally launched this month.