Singapore has strengthened its commitment to the fight against cross-border crime by making it easier for the country to accept requests for help from foreign authorities.
A Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday to amend existing laws to expand the types of offences for which such help can be rendered.
This now includes all offences here that carry a maximum jail sentence of at least four years.
Also, the conditions that must be fulfilled before help can be given have been relaxed for some kinds of assistance, such as locating someone believed to be in Singapore.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act was enacted in 2000 against the backdrop of decreasing trade curbs and rapid globalisation. But there remains a need for effective international cooperation against international criminals who try to escape the law through jurisdictional loopholes, she said.
"The legislative amendments tabled today represent further strides to enhance Singapore's mutual legal assistance framework," she said before the debate on the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill.
Mutual legal aid requests received by Singapore increased from 74 in 2012 to 114 last year, according to the Ministry of Law.
The law sets out various forms of assistance that Singapore may request from foreign countries, and vice-versa.
These include arranging for a person to travel there to give evidence, and activating domestic enforcement to help with search and seizure procedures.
The amended law allows for a more "calibrated" approach to the requirement of "dual criminality", which states that requests can be approved only for acts that also constitute an offence here.
This requirement is not needed now for "non-coercive" forms of help like locating persons; it applies only to "coercive" ones such as finding and seizing assets.
It does not apply in some cases involving foreign tax evasion, even if the help requested is considered "coercive".
More kinds of offences, beyond just those linked to money laundering or drug trafficking, are also covered. These include selected Road Traffic Act offences.
During the debate on the Bill yesterday, Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said it "significantly" widened the scope for cooperation between Singapore and other countries.
He said it complements the changes to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, an anti-money laundering law which was amended on Monday.
Longer arm of the law
The legislative amendments tabled today represent further strides to enhance Singapore's mutual legal assistance framework.
- Ms Indranee Rajah, on the need for effective cooperation against international criminals, before the debate on the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill
This article was first published on July 9, 2014.
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