Singapore seeks to tighten money laundering audits for family offices

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, July 31 (Reuters) - Singapore's central bank said on Monday it was proposing measures to tighten money laundering surveillance of family offices, which handle the financial affairs of the super rich.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), in a statement, said it had launched a public consultation on the changes, which include requiring Single Family Offices (SFOs) to hire an MAS-regulated financial institution to check for money laundering, as well as report on their total assets at the end of each calendar year.

"These measures will allow MAS to better monitor SFOs operating in Singapore and address any ML (money laundering) risks in the sector," the statement said. Currently, SFOs can apply for certain exemptions, MAS said.

The number of SFOs, which handle investments, taxation, wealth transfer and other financial matters for the super rich, has surged in Singapore to 1,100 at the end of last year from 400 at end-2020, MAS data shows.

Driving the boom are ultra-high net worth families, from Asia and beyond, seeking a safe haven from turmoil in the global banking system as well as geopolitical and economic uncertainty. Investors from China and Hong Kong have also flocked to the city-state in the last few years to escape some of the world's toughest anti-COVID measures.

MAS said interested parties should submit their comments on the consultation by September 30, 2023.

(Reporting by Xie Yu in HONG KONG and Xinghui Kok in SINGAPORE, Editing by Miral Fahmy)