Singapore asks banks to search for suspicious Myanmar money flows

People were waiting to withdraw money from Myawaddy Bank’s ATM in Yangon last month. (AFP photo)

A circular seen by Reuters showed that Singapore’s central bank has asked financial companies to be vigilant about any suspicious transactions or money flows between the city and Myanmar, citing concerns about possible financial crimes.

In the circular issued on February 25, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) reminded all CEOs of financial institutions of the need for robust customer due diligence and appropriate measures to mitigate risks in high-risk situations.

The move comes amid weeks of mass demonstrations in Myanmar after the military seized power.

On Thursday, pro-democracy activists pledged to stage more demonstrations in the Southeast Asian country after the United Nations said 38 people were killed in the most violent day of unrest since last month’s military coup.

Singapore’s position as one of the world’s leading financial centers and commercial hub makes it particularly vulnerable to money laundering due to large cross-border flows. Singapore has close ties with Myanmar and is one of its biggest investors.

In the post, MAS urged financial institutions to keep tabs in time for the rapidly evolving situation in Myanmar, including unilateral sanctions imposed by other jurisdictions.

She said the situation in Myanmar could lead to money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes.

“Given the developments in Myanmar, financial institutions are reminded to take appropriate measures to manage any risks arising from their business and client relationships, including reputational, legal and operational risks,” MAS said.

The Finance Ministry said that financial institutions should submit and report any suspicious transaction reports immediately, adding that such reports should be titled “Myanmar 2021”.

In response to a query from Reuters, the association confirmed that it issued a circular on February 25 regarding developments in Myanmar.

The circular was issued two days after the central bank announced in a media statement that its regular monitoring of the banking system had not found large funds from Myanmar companies and individuals in banks in Singapore.

Singapore Police use and analyze suspicious transaction reports and other financial information to uncover money laundering, terrorist financing and other serious crimes, according to an advisory on their website.

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