Heftier fines for those who fund terrorism

SINGAPORE - Those who fund terrorists or their activities will face stiffer fines of up to $1 million, as the laws to thwart such financing were strengthened by Parliament on Monday.

The Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) (Amendment) Bill also makes it a crime for someone to disclose information about investigations into such offences.

Speaking during the debate on the Bill, Mr S. Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs, said the changes were to "boost our fight against terrorism by strengthening our counter-terrorism financing regime and supporting our terrorist rehabilitation efforts".

Those caught providing monetary help to terrorists face a fine not exceeding $100,000, or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.

The fine will now be raised to a maximum of $500,000 for individuals, and $1 million for entities such as companies, bringing it in line with that for money laundering offences under other pieces of legislation.

Members who spoke during the debate supported the changes. But some, like Mr Desmond Lee (Jurong GRC) and Nominated MPs R. Dhinakaran and Eugene Tan, felt the fines were inadequate and did not reflect the potential damage such acts could inflict.

Responding, Mr Iswaran said the new fines were comparable to those in other jurisdictions such as Canada, Germany and Hong Kong. He added that the Government would monitor the situation and review the fines if necessary.

To strengthen Singapore's regime against terrorism financing, the Bill also makes it an offence to tip off others about probes into financing terrorism, with the penalty for doing so pegged at a fine of up to $30,000, or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

Another clause in the Bill protects informers by making sure their identities are kept secret during legal proceedings.

Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) asked if the clause was too "broadly phrased" to provide adequate protection, since the courts can decide to disclose an informer's name when it determines that "justice cannot be fully done" without doing so.

But Mr Iswaran said the exception was necessary to "safeguard against injustice resulting from protecting the identity of informers".

The Bill also gave a nod to the importance of rehabilitating those involved in terrorism, and will make it easier for them and their families to meet basic expenditure needs.

Under the law, those detained for terrorism-related offences face certain financial prohibitions. The Bill will make it easier for transactions related to basic expenses - such as payment for food, medical treatment and mortgage - to be exempted.

Said Mr Iswaran: "Even as we strengthen our laws to fight terrorism, we must also find ways to rehabilitate and reintegrate terrorist detainees and former detainees."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.