Unlicensed BTC dealer charged under Singapore’s new laws

A 23-year-old Singaporean woman has become the first person to be charged in the country under the new laws for dealing illegally in BTC. The authorities claim that she facilitated money laundering by processing BTC purchases for cyber criminals.

The suspect is alleged to have facilitated the illegal transactions between February 27 and 28 this year. She received 13 fund transfers from unknown parties amounting to SGD 3,350 ($2,412). She then used the funds to buy BTC and sent it to the unknown parties. According to the police, she received a commission for her activities.

Upon investigations, the police discovered that the money she received to buy the BTC was proceeds of crime from victims of online scams.

The woman, whose name was withheld, doesn’t have a license to facilitate digital currency transactions. As a result, Singaporean authorities have charged her for violating Section 5 of the Payment Services Act 2019. The newly-enacted law bars Singaporeans from facilitating digital currency transactions unless they have obtained a license from the regulators.

The woman will face up to three years behind bars if convicted of her crime, a fine of up to $90,000, or both.

The Payment Services Act came into effect in January this year, finally bringing the digital currency industry under the prevailing anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing rules.  The Act came into effect just weeks after the EU’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5).

With the enactment of the Act, digital currency service providers had to apply for registration and for an operating license. The exchanges were given a month to file applications from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

As the MAS revealed, it had received hundreds of applications from exchanges, wallets and other service providers.  In March, the MAS stated that it would grant some regulatory relief to the operators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed them to operate without the license until July 28, but only if they had applied for the license during the designated period. The relief allowed companies like Alibaba, Bitgo, Binance, Ripple and Coinbase to continue operating in the Asian financial hub until the grace period ends.

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