Singapore Now Requires Property Developers to Run Background Checks on Buyers

By Michael Klazema on 12/6/2018

Most often, background checks are tools for pre-employment screening and character vetting, allowing businesses and non-profits to enhance the safety and soundness of their hiring choices. Globally, background checks are finding other uses—including fighting against the spread of terrorism. Singapore has imposed new anti-money laundering guidelines on property developers in the Southeast Asian nation to combat money laundering and illicit funding in the industry.

The new rules come in response to what has been a consistent issue in Singapore: using ill-gotten gains from elsewhere in the world to purchase property within the nation. Most often, this occurs during pre-sale periods, during which property developers solicit buyers for units yet to be built. Illegal funds are plowed into these homes, which can later be sold again, returning "clean," legitimate money to clandestine operations which frequently finance terrorists. Previously, lax regulations typically meant developers did little to no investigation into who purchased properties, enabling the behavior to continue.

The new law adopted by the Singaporean Parliament, dubbed the Developers (Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Bill, establishes several new requirements for developers. They must develop plans and train employees in anti-money laundering techniques, for example, and implement policies to deny purchases funded from sources with "fictitious names." In other words, if "Bill Gates" inquires about purchasing much of a newly-planned housing complex, the developer must deny the group or individual. 

Making this determination will be helped in part by the law's stipulation that developers must conduct background checks. Similar to the national security report offered by, these checks will enable developers to identify red flags that indicate an elevated risk of laundering activity for certain transactions. The law also mandates that developers report to the government any suspicious activity they detect during these due diligence efforts; the information will then fuel government-level enforcement actions.

Singapore's new law provides an interesting view on background checks. It shows that when properly applied, these checks can play a wider and even more important role than they do when applied to employment alone. Singapore's actions highlight the importance of knowing with whom you intend to do business. provides not only national security background check but also alias verification and other criminal history services that can prove useful in business and partnerships. With these services, professionals across industries can feel confident that they are operating safely and within the bounds of the law. 

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