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What you need to know about crypto regulations in Singapore

14 Sep 2022

Finreg.sg answers your questions on crypto regulations in Singapore through bite sized Q&As.

What you’ve always wanted to know about crypto regulations in Singapore

TL;DR

  • MAS views cryptocurrencies to be highly risky, and there are no regulations that protect your money or cryptocurrencies.
  • As such, MAS is unable to help you if you face difficulties in recovering your crypto assets.
  • However, the development of blockchain technology for value-adding use cases is encouraged, and cryptocurrencies could still have a place in Singapore’s financial sector if regulated.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) recent guidelines to discourage cryptocurrency trading means that cryptocurrency service providers are now no longer able to market or advertise their services in public areas in Singapore, such as through advertisements on public transport and social media platforms. 

Thinking of investing in cryptocurrencies and wondering where you stand in terms of investor protection? 

We have compiled some bite-sized Q&As below to help you understand how cryptocurrencies are regulated in Singapore.

Qn: Are cryptocurrencies legal tender? In other words, is it recognised as money that I can use? 

“Cryptocurrencies are not regulated by MAS. They are not legal tender or securities. Persons that buy or sell cryptocurrencies, or facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrencies may be regulated under the Payment Services Act 2019 for money-laundering and terrorism financing risk only.

Source: MoneySense, last revised on 3 July 2021

Qn: Wait, but why? 

“Are cryptocurrencies money? So far, the answer must be no. Cryptocurrencies have performed poorly as a medium of exchange, a store of value, or a unit of account. MAS prefers to call them by their more accurate technical name: crypto tokens…

But to be regarded as money, crypto tokens need to be more stable in value and have credible backing…”

According to MAS (Speeches), last revised on 9 November 2021
 

Qn: Maybe not now, but will it replace money as legal tender in future? 

Still, Tharman doesn’t see cryptocurrencies replacing money as legal tender given their volatile and speculative nature.

“If you have an instrument that is volatile in pricing, it’s never going to become money,” he said. “It’s going to be a speculative asset, for both the wise and foolish.”

Source: Bloomberg, last revised 27 October 2021

Qn: I am buying crypto off an exchange. Are they regulated?

Exchanges offering the trading of cryptocurrencies are regulated as digital payment token service providers under the Payment Services Act. Given their limited scale, these entities are regulated primarily for money laundering and terrorism financing risks. However, the Act provides MAS the powers to impose additional measures on digital payment token service providers as needed.

According to MAS (Parliamentary Replies), last revised on 5 April 2021

Qn: How about DeFi platforms? Are they regulated? 

“There are no regulations specifically regulating decentralised finance (DeFi) platforms that match borrowers and lenders of digital assets. However, general laws on the conduct of lending as a business will apply (such as the Moneylenders Act and the Banking Act).”

Source: Chambers and Partners, last revised on 17 June 2021

Qn: What does MAS think of cryptocurrencies as investments for retail investors?

MAS frowns on cryptocurrencies or tokens as an investment asset for retail investors. The prices of crypto tokens are not anchored on any economic fundamentals and are subject to sharp speculative swings.  Investors in these tokens are at risk of suffering significant losses.

According to MAS (Speeches) last revised on 9 November 2021

Qn: Is there any protection for retail investors in cryptocurrencies?

At the moment, MAS does not intend to provide any regulatory safeguards for investments in DPTs, the safety and soundness of DPT service providers or the proper processing of DPT transactions. Providers of DPT services are regulated primarily for ML/TF risks.

MAS has issued advisories to warn members of the public of the risks of investing in DPT and may require providers of DPT services to make specified disclosures on the risks of such investments to their customers.

Written by Millennium Law LLC

Qn: So, does this mean that cryptocurrencies have no future in Singapore? 

“Cryptocurrency holds a future in Singapore but it needs to be regulated."

(Bloomberg) —Cryptocurrencies have a place in Singapore’s financial sector if these digital assets are regulated, according to the chairman of the nation’s central bank.

“There may be a role for crypto in future finance that extends beyond pure speculation and illicit finance,” Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said Wednesday at the Asia Financial Markets Forum. Stablecoins, for example, can have a role in traditional payment systems, though these digital assets need to be regulated for illicit finance activities including anti-money laundering, he said.

The central bank is keeping an “open mind” on cryptocurrencies because the regulator wants technologies and innovation to develop, said Tharman, one of Singapore’s most influential politicians who has held roles in organisations such as the International Monetary Fund.”

Source: Bloomberg, last revised 27 October 2021

To conclude, MAS views cryptocurrencies to be highly risky products, and there are no MAS regulations that protect your money or cryptocurrencies. 

If you trade in unregulated products, MAS is unable to help you if you face difficulties in recovering your assets such as cryptocurrencies and monies, or become a victim to unfair or manipulative practices. 

As such, investors should be aware of the risks before they put their savings into cryptocurrencies.

This article is written in partnership with Finreg, a one-stop knowledge hub and global initiative. Finreg allows you to access regulatory information through bite sized Q&As and regulatory documents.