by Alessandro Graziadei – Unimondo*

In recent weeks, Singapore has passed a series of amendments to existing laws to further tighten controls on activities that directly or indirectly finance the proliferation and sale of weapons and financial instruments used to circumvent international sanctions. This is an important step for the city-state in the south of Malaysia, which has become perhaps the world’s most important commercial and financial centre. The changes are designed to enable Singapore to meet the updated requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog on money laundering and terrorist financing. It’s worth remembering that Singapore has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 1992, which was set up in 1989 within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to promote anti-money laundering strategies at national and international levels. Under the new 2020 standards, member countries and their private sector companies must assess and mitigate proliferation financing risks related to “potential violations, non-implementation or evasion of targeted financial sanctions.”

Activities that may directly or indirectly support the proliferation of weapons in Singapore have ranged over the years from trading in precious stones and metals to lending and providing legal services. “In addition to the financial sector, the FATF has also highlighted the important role that other non-financial sectors play in combating the flow of dirty money for arms production,” said Mr Rahayu Mahzam, the Singapore Ministry of Law’s official in charge of this sensitive issue, when introducing the bill.

For this reason, and to avoid dangerous loopholes, the new law has updated the definition of a precious product, no longer tying it only to certain metals or stones, but also to other elements that influence its value, such as branding and workmanship. As a result, Singapore will now consider any product with a price tag of more than 20,000 local dollars (approx. USD 14,900) to be valuable and will prohibit the licensing or assignment of management roles in money lending and pawnbroking activities to individuals who have been convicted of financial crimes.

In addition to pressure from international bodies such as the FATF, Singapore’s new domestic measures come after an outcry from the local public following the arrest on 15 August of 10 foreign brokers suspected of involvement in a huge money laundering case. Also last year, an arms dealer was arrested for failing to declare that he was leaving Singapore with half a million dollars. Kyaw Min Oo was arrested along with two other compatriots, Wai Sar Tun and Win Myint after police were tipped off that the three Burmese were trying to smuggle more than $20,000 out of Singapore.

Kyaw was found to be an arms dealer in the pay of Myanmar’s current military regime, while Win was found to be a director of five different companies involved in trading helicopters and aircraft parts, called Asia Aviation Trading, Sky Avia Trading, Heli Asia Trading, Heli White Trading and Sky Union Trading, all registered between 2014 and 2017. Today, countries are primarily responsible for enforcing arms regulations and controlling the activities of brokers and traders operating from their territory or registered with their national authorities. However, there is not always a common global understanding of what constitutes arms brokering, and many arms suppliers and recipients often lack transparency on the value and volume of their arms exports and imports, making it difficult to report accurate data globally.

On the cover photo, the Singapore skyline at sunset ©Sean Pavone/



* Unimondo, founded on 10 December 1998 under the auspices of the Fontana Onlus Foundation, is an online news outlet dedicated to providing authoritative content on peace, sustainable human development, human rights and environmental issues. It offers diverse and timely information, amplifying the voices of different facets of Italian and global civil society. As the Italian hub of the OneWorld network, founded in London in 1995, it is part of a global network with 11 centres worldwide and 1,600 partner associations.