Published: 06 August 2018
Mr Ong Teng Koon: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) over the past three years, whether there is an increase in the number of reported cases of investment scams targeting members of the public; (b) what is the trend of the ratio of successful prosecuted cases versus reported cases over the same period; and (c) whether the Ministry has any plans to take a tougher stance to punish such investment scammers who defraud the public such as strengthening legislation to deter and punish such behaviour.
1. From 2015 to 2017, the number of reported investment scams has doubled, from about 200 to over 400 cases a year.
2. A key reason is the emergence of unregulated online investment platforms. These platforms allow trades across a wide range of products, such as currencies, shares, commodities and binary options. The public usually comes across such platforms via online advertisements, emails and unsolicited phone calls and messages. The operators of these online platforms are usually based outside Singapore, and payments are made directly to overseas bank accounts.
3. Since 2015, the Commercial Affairs Department has charged 30 persons for their roles in 14 investment scams.
4. The number of successfully prosecuted cases looks low compared to the number of Police reports. One of the reasons is that a significant proportion of investment scams today are committed remotely by syndicates operating in foreign countries, or the alleged investment assets, e.g. distressed properties and agricultural products like seaweed farms, are overseas and difficult for Police to track down conclusively. Also, one investment scam may have multiple victims, resulting in many Police reports. Some losses alleged in reports are not due to scams, but the ups and downs of the market.
5. A person who is convicted of a cheating offence under section 420 of the Penal Code may be liable for imprisonment of up to ten years. MHA and MinLaw are reviewing the need to further strengthen our legislative levers against fraud offences, as part of the ongoing review of the Penal Code.
6. Police will also continue to work closely with foreign law enforcement counterparts to crack down on overseas syndicates targeting Singaporeans.