Singapore's new Anti Money Laundering Laws for Precious Metals and Gem Dealers

This was a difficult topic for many so we have put together a closed document for our graduates and friends that tries to summarise some key points we understand from the guidance documents on the MinLaw Website and discussions with MinLaw:

  1. Who does it affect?

    You. Its just not worth arguing this as an individual since it comes down to legal interpretation and if you have do defend your interpretation in a court of law it will cost you more than the registration fee.

    There is a lot of reference to 'qualifying materials'. To simplify a little, this means:

    • Silver, Gold, Platinum (and other precious metals) or any metal alloy that contains at least 2% of these metals.
      This does NOT apply to platings as the plating is less than 2% of the metal weight.
    • Diamonds, Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, Pearls and Jade
      This STILL applies to synthetic materials, freshwater pearls, etc...

    The wording is so broad, that unless you avoid any precious metals, and every sort of pearl, you will be in violation if you do not register. This is because the wording covers BOTH the purchase (for resale) and the sale of qualifying materials.
    In particular, MinLaw clarified verbally to a group of us two points that:

    • You do NOT need to register if the provable purchase cost of the qualifying materials cost of EVERY SINGLE ITEM you sell is LESS than 50% of the selling price of the product.
    • Even though you may be buying qualifying materials for resale (eg: Sterling Silver Clasps, Pearls) and this would, according to the act, require you to register, MinLaw will be "unlikely to prosecute" provided your items for resale contain less than 50% cost attributable to the qualifying materials.
    Please bear in mind, this information was provided verbally and MinLaw have yet to provide anything in writing - instead repeatedly citing to many individuals and companies the unhelpful statement that 'if in doubt, you should seek legal counsel'.

    What if your product costs $20 and is made of sterling silver and a single freshwater pearl? This is STILL a precious metal and a qualifying precious stone; you must register!
    What if you have ONE product where the cost of the qualifying materials is 50% or above? You must register!
    What if you sell your product at a discount - thereby changing the ratio of the cost of qualifying materials such that it is 50% of above? Register!
    Wow... moneylaunderers must be getting desperate!

    Is this ridiculous for fashion jewellery artists with products costing tens or hundreds of dollars? Yes.
    Does it mean you dont need to register? No.

  2. What does it mean?

    You can find full details here:
    https://acd.mlaw.gov.sg/images/Guidelines%20for%20regulated%20dealers_20190430.pdf

    For those of you who are not at high risk of supporting money laundering activities (ie: you dont do large volumes of cash transactions) this likely means:

    • You will need to pay yearly to register. $440 :(
    • You will need to prepare some documentation outlining your plans to prevent money-laundering. (One Time) (Minlaw have provided some documentation but this is lengthy and impractical for smaller entrepreneurs and designers to wade through and adapt. Once we have done our documentation for CJS, we will see if any of it is applicable to share with our graduates.
    • You will need to remain mindful of AML procedures - especially with regard to suspicious transactions. This means following the simplifies procedures you document in the above case. (Ongoing)
    • You will need to properly report suspicious transactions or very large cash transactions if you ever have one.
    • You will need to keep proper records (which you should be doing anyway...)

    Initial reactions to the Customer Due Diligence and Enhanced Customer Due Diligence have been extremely negative - but MinLaw does NOT require unreasonable customer questionning for low risk transactions. The impact of CDD on your daily business practices is low especially if YOU are the officer in charge as well as the person interacting with your clients. The MAIN impact on small businesses is the unreasonably 'fixed' registration fee that does not take business size or risk into account.

    While we do not think that the Fees MinLaw is charging are fair on smaller business owners, we do see that they have to err on the side of caution.

  3. When should I register

    Immediately. Just take 20 minutes and do it.
    It is VERY easy for Sole proprietorships and partnerships and requires a bit more documentation (eg: from your company secretary) for Private Limited Companies.
    Registration does NOT require that you have documentations and procedures in place at the time of registration.

  4. What if I am a Foreigner?

    If you sell in Singapore less than 90 days in a year - there is no need to worry. Otherwise, you will need to get a CORP PASS for your foreign business and register.

  5. Where is the information on this:

    Here:
    https://acd.mlaw.gov.sg/registration/

  6. How can I contact MinLaw?

    Here:
    https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/eservices/enquiry/
    Yeah, its a form.
    They will reply - but you cant reply to them back - just go through the form :(

  7. What happens if I don't register?

    If you qualify, you will be breaking the law.
    The penalty is up to $75,000 fines and/or up to 3 years in jail.
    Will someone break down your door and arrest you?
    MinLaw have, again, clarified verbally that their intent is not to shut down small entrepreneurs who'se actions do not contibute at all to moneylaundering. So the risk is relatively low... but you would still be breaking the law.

  8. What is the benefit of registering?

    None to you - at least not from any government agency. You will be paying a high fee for no reason other than supporting the government's initiative to regulate a different subsector of our industry that has a hi ML/FT risk.
    But... Its not ALL bad. As jewellery professionals - we FINALLY have a line in the sand that says I'm a PRO! Its a way for new business owners and small businesses to set themselves apart from (now Illegal) online sellers and 'unregistered dealers'. It will give your customers more confidence in dealing with you, and set you apart from the competition! After all - if your customers are buying from illegal dealers, how confident can they be abotu the quality of the products, or even that the business will still be in existence in the future if they need to return the product or seek after-sales service?

  9. How can I talk to other affected designers and jewellers about this?

    We have a whatsapp group here:
    https://chat.whatsapp.com/FFYgGkltWI66W0Qh6oGVPK

  10. How do I get in touch with Mervyn Cheong (who hosted a learning session about this in April?)

    Mervyn Cheong
    Partner
    Advocatus Law LLP
    08-01 EFG Bank Building
    25 North Bridge Road
    Singapore 179104
    T +65 6603 9200
    E This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Please be aware that Mervyn is a professional and cannot provide free advisory services. If you contact him he can help you understand the costs of obtaining legal counsel, but will not be providing complimentary advisory services!

  11. Is this actual legal advice?

    You know you are reading Tanja's personal blog right?

    This is not advice.

    We are not lawyers, so even if it were advice, its not legal.

    This is our practical interpretation of the changes in legislation. If we interpret it incorrectly for our business its our problem. What you do is yours...
    We take no responsibility for your own adherence to Singapore Law.