As published on straitstimes.com, Wednesday 5 October, 2022.
The Ministry of Law is looking into whether information on overseas entities that own land in Singapore should be made publicly available to counter money laundering and terrorism financing.
It will also consider making available to the public information about the beneficial ownership of shell companies that own properties.
Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law, made the two points on Wednesday in response to questions from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok).
He had asked if MinLaw would require that overseas entities wanting to buy, sell or transfer properties in Singapore register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).
Mr Murali also asked if the ministry would have these entities disclose their beneficial owners and principal officers, similar to what was introduced in the UK.
As it is, Acra has implemented a register of beneficial owners of companies, foreign companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs).
Foreign entities that carry on or intend to carry on business in Singapore are required to be registered with Acra. They also have to file with Acra information on their beneficial owners, Ms Rahayu said.
This serves to make the ownership of such entities more transparent and also reduce the chances for these entities being used for illicit purposes.
In line with the anti-money laundering and countering of the financing of terrorism standard set by global watchdog Financial Action Task Force, professionals involved in the buying, selling and transfer of real estate - such as real estate agents and lawyers - are required to address the money laundering and terrorism financing risks.
"They have to assess their money laundering and terrorism financing risks, conduct customer due intelligence including the identification of their customers' beneficial owners, and where the risks of customers are high, take enhanced measures such as source of fund checks," she said.
The UK's Register of Overseas Entities took effect in August and mandates that all individuals holding UK land through an overseas entity have to register ownership information by end-January 2023 at the latest.
The disclosure obligations apply to overseas entities that own or acquire a "qualifying estate", which includes generally residential and commercial, freehold and leasehold properties.
Beneficial owners have to provide their name, date of birth and nationality, usual residential address, service address and the date on which the individual became a registrable beneficial owner.
UK law mandates that all information other than the date of birth and residential address be publicly available and that overseas entities must update the information on an annual basis.