Skip to content

MAS, HKMA Bolster AML/CFT Enforcement: A New Era of Regulatory Vigilance in Asia

The MAS's recent media release emphasizes the need for stringent AML/CFT measures, especially in the digital assets domain, and Hong Kong feels the same too.

Photo by Dan Asaki / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has made it clear that its regulatory focus for 2023 and 2024 will be on asset and wealth managers' compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) requirements.

The news comes amid reports that the value of assets seized or frozen in Singapore's largest money laundering case now exceeds S$2.4 billion (US$1.8 billion), including S$38 million in cryptocurrencies.

The MAS has also emphasized its intent to tackle misconduct in the digital ecosystem, particularly in the realm of cryptocurrencies and digital assets. This comes as a clear signal that the regulator is not only keeping pace with the rapid evolution of the financial sector but is also taking proactive steps to ensure that the growth of the digital economy does not compromise the integrity of the financial system.

MAS Lays Down the Law: Three Arrows, No Bullseye
3AC’S dynamic duo Zhu Su and Kyle Livingston Davies just got a “stay in your lane” memo from Singapore’s financial regulator.

Singapore, long viewed as a bastion of financial stability and a hub for fintech innovation, is sending a clear message: adapt to stringent regulations or face the consequences. The MAS's mention of "tackling misconduct in the digital ecosystem" is not just a veiled warning but a direct challenge to the crypto industry. The regulator's intent to collaborate with foreign counterparts to share information on non-compliant entities further amplifies the global nature of this crackdown.

In a parallel move, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has also been vocal about its commitment to AML/CFT enforcement. In a recent keynote speech at the Pan-Asian Regulatory Summit 2023, Carmen Chu, Executive Director (Enforcement and AML), highlighted the challenges posed by the rapid growth in digital fraud. With fraud being the predicate offence in over 70% of money laundering investigations and convictions in Hong Kong, the regulator is keenly aware of the need for robust AML/CFT measures. Chu emphasized the importance of collaboration within the AML ecosystem and the need for innovative methods to combat financial crime. The HKMA's initiatives, such as the Financial Intelligence Evaluation Sharing Tool (FINEST), showcase its commitment to fostering collaboration and leveraging technology to address AML/CFT challenges.

The synchronized efforts of MAS and HKMA underscore a broader trend in the Asian financial landscape. As digital assets and cryptocurrencies continue to gain traction, regulators are becoming increasingly vigilant. The emphasis on AML/CFT compliance is not merely a reaction to the challenges posed by the digital economy but is a proactive measure to ensure that the growth of the sector is sustainable and secure.

The clear message to financial institutions, especially those operating in the digital assets space, is that regulatory compliance is not optional. As the digital economy continues to evolve, so too will the regulatory landscape. Institutions that prioritize compliance and actively engage with regulators will be better positioned to navigate this dynamic environment.


  • TOKEN2049 Sets New Record as World's Largest Web3 Event: TOKEN2049, Asia's premier crypto conference, concluded its Singapore edition with a record-breaking 10,000+ attendees from over 120 countries, organizers said. The event, which showcased 450+ side events (including our very own Blockhouse and Blockclub) and major industry announcements, has solidified its position as the go-to platform for Web3 and crypto innovations. Highlights included LayerZero's partnership with Google Cloud and Huobi's rebranding to HTX. TOKEN2049 is set to debut in Dubai in April 2024 and will return to Singapore in September of the same year. If you missed the event, read our recaps of TOKEN2049's Day 1 and Day 2.
  • CoinEx to Resume Deposit and Withdrawal Services for Major Cryptocurrencies: Following a $70 million hack, CoinEx has announced that it will recommence deposit and withdrawal services for several major cryptocurrencies, including BTC, ETH, USDT, and USDC, on September 21, 2023. The exchange said it would be deploying a new wallet system, after compromised hot wallet keys led to deposits and withdrawals being suspended for over a week.
  • North Korea Linked to Significant Crypto Money Laundering Activities: File this under "things you probably already assumed," but now there's data from Chainalysis that reveals that cryptocurrency worth US$21.9 million, stolen from Harmony Protocol, was transferred to a Russia-based exchange known for its involvement in illicit transactions. Furthermore, the value of stolen cryptocurrency linked to DPRK groups has reached a staggering US$340.4 million this year. This is a significant drop from the over US$1.65 billion reported in 2022. However, with the total amount of stolen cryptocurrency estimated at US$3.54 billion, DPRK remains a major hub for hacking activities, solidifying its position as one of the most formidable threats in the cybercrime arena.
  • Balancer Blames ‘Social Engineering Attack’ on DNS provider for Website Hijack: The Ethereum-based automated market maker has reported that a social engineering attack on its DNS service provider, EuroDNS, was the cause behind its frontend being compromised, with an estimated $238,000 in crypto stolen. According to blockchain security firms SlowMist and CertiK, the attacker employed Angel Drainer phishing contracts. Crypto drainers trick users into approving a harmful transaction in their digital wallets. Once approved, a smart contract can then move some or all of the funds from the wallet, based on the transaction details.
  • Friend.Tech-fueled competition sets Pepe social media handle as prize: A competition on the web3 social media platform, Friend.Tech, is offering the "Pepe" social media handle as its grand prize. The user with the most @Pepe keys on Friend.Tech stands a chance to win the social media handle on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Following the announcement of "The Pepe Game" competition, the value of @Pepe’s Friend.Tech key surged by approximately 966%. The owner of the @pepe handle on Twitter/X has described the game as a "schizophrenic experiment" and has stated that the handle will be transferred for free to the Friend.Tech account holder with the highest number of keys when @Pepe secures the #1 spot. Friend.Tech operates on a unique model where users must own "keys" to access someone's channel, and as more people join a channel, the key's price increases. After the game's announcement, the Pepe key's price spiked from around $330 to $3,500, later stabilizing at over $1,900.