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Decoding Money Laundering: Singaporean, Indian and American Legislation (Part 2)

Money laundering, a sophisticated and clandestine financial transmutation, poses a profound threat to the integrity of economies and the stability of financial systems worldwide. As illicit funds navigate intricate routes, nations grapple with fortifying their legal frameworks to thwart the pernicious grasp of money launderers.

This article embarks on a comparative exploration of anti-money laundering legislation in Singapore, India, and the United States, shedding light on the distinct approaches each nation employs to combat this global menace.


The primary anti-money laundering law in Singapore is the ‘Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act(CDSA). This law was enacted on July 6, 1999, to enhance the effectiveness of combatting money laundering. It expanded the scope of money laundering offenses beyond just drug-related crimes, which the previous legislation (DTA) was criticized for focusing on.

The CDSA follows the ‘Predicate Offence‘ approach, meaning that money laundering is linked to specific underlying criminal activities, rather than a blanket ‘Threshold’ approach where all crimes surpassing a certain severity level are considered money laundering. Under the CDSA, money laundering occurs when proceeds from Drug Trafficking Offences and specific Serious Crimes listed in Schedule 2 are dealt with in an illegal manner. It’s important to note that the term ‘money laundering‘ doesn’t cover the proceeds from other criminal acts that aren’t categorized as ‘Drug Trafficking Offences’ or ‘Criminal Conduct’ in Schedule 2.

Although these other criminal acts (such as tax evasion, smuggling, corporate misconduct like insider trading and market manipulation, and terrorism) are subject to legal penalties, they aren’t considered ‘money laundering’ offenses under the CDSA.

Consequently, individuals revealing information about these non-covered offenses as whistle-blowers wouldn’t receive the legal protections provided by the CDSA. The nature of the information disclosed to Authorized Officers like the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) becomes significant in this context.


The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (referred to as PMLA), is a dedicated legislation designed to tackle the issue of money laundering. It defines money laundering in Section 3 as any involvement, whether knowingly or unknowingly, direct or indirect, in activities related to the proceeds of crime. These activities encompass concealing, acquiring, possessing, or using such proceeds, along with projecting or asserting them as untainted assets.

In the case of P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement (2019), the Supreme Court characterized money laundering as the process of camouflaging the origins of unlawfully obtained funds. This involves converting the ill-gotten gains from illegal activities into legitimate resources, thereby legitimizing them. The court emphasized that money laundering not only jeopardizes a nation’s financial system but also undermines its integrity and sovereignty.

The PMLA, supported by the Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005, stands as a pivotal legal framework for combating money laundering. Additionally, India, as a signatory, participates in the global effort against money laundering through the intergovernmental body, the Financial Action Task Force.

Several other statutes contribute to the fight against money laundering in India. These include the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974, the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, as well as provisions within the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

United States of America

Roughly half of the global money laundering activities are channelled through US financial institutions. The United States was among the pioneers in enacting effective measures against money laundering, with the establishment of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) in 1970. Over time, a series of laws have bolstered and refined the BSA, equipping law enforcement and regulatory bodies with potent tools to combat money laundering.

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) of 1970, overseen by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), was designed to prevent US financial institutions from aiding money laundering. FinCEN assumes the primary role in shaping regulations and policies to combat financial crimes within the nation.

The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 designated money laundering as a federal offense, forbidding the structuring of transactions to avoid Currency Transaction Report (CTR) filings. It introduced civil and criminal forfeiture for BSA violations and mandated banks to establish effective Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures for ensuring compliance with BSA’s reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

The Annunzio-Wylie Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1992 reinforced penalties for BSA breaches, mandated Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) while discontinuing the use of Criminal Referral Forms (CRFs). Financial institutions were required to verify and document wire transfers. This act also established the Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group (BSAAG).

In 1994, the Money Laundering Suppression Act necessitated banking agencies to enhance training, develop AML examination protocols, and refine procedures for referring cases to law enforcement.

Post the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US revamped the BSA through the USA PATRIOT Act. This act mandated all financial institutions to establish their own AML programs. It introduced the International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, criminalizing terrorism financing and bolstering customer identification procedures. It also prohibited financial dealings with foreign shell banks.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2020 is set to amend the BSA for the first time since 2001. Its aim is to modernize the BSA, curbing money launderers’ use of shell companies to evade detection. Furthermore, the Act addresses emerging financial threats, promotes cooperation and information sharing, and encourages technological innovation.

The next article will examine the legal consequences and penalties associated with money laundering convictions.

Please note that this article does not constitute express or implied legal advice, whether in whole or in part. For a Consultation or if you simply require more information, email us at


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