Fear of illegal activity drives Bitcoin regulation in Singapore.

Today the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank and financial regulatory agency, formally announced its decision to regulate virtual currencies “to address potential money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF) risks.”

In its public statement, the MAS claims that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are particularly vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing risks. According to the agency, any firm that buys, sells, or facilitates “the exchange of virtual currencies for real currencies” will be required to “verify the identities of their customers and report suspicious transactions to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office.”

The MAS claims that these regulations are “similar to those imposed on money changers and remittance businesses who undertake cash transactions.” The agency made clear, however, that Singapore still does not consider virtual currencies as “real” like securities or legal tender.

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Singapore’s decision mirrors proposed virtual currency regulations in the state of New York. Like Singapore, officials from New York’s Department of Financial Services claim intervention will prevent money laundering and other illegal activities.