Published: 14 December 2021
1. ISD has completed investigations into the activities of Singaporean Dickson Yeo (Yeo), who was arrested on 30 December 2020 and subsequently detained under the Internal Security Act on 29 January 2021 for acting as a paid agent of a foreign state. Yeo was released on a Suspension Direction (SD) on 14 December 2021.
2. ISD’s investigations into the full extent of Yeo’s activities established that his dealings with the foreign state were clandestine in nature. His foreign handlers had first reached out to him in 2015 through an online professional networking site. They subsequently invited him to an academic symposium overseas, where he was approached to write reports for them. Yeo would go on to carry out various taskings given to him by his foreign handlers in exchange for monetary gain from 2016 to 2019. Yeo was fully aware that his handlers were working for the intelligence apparatus of a foreign state.
3. Investigations also showed that Yeo was tasked to source for information and provide reports on issues of interest to his foreign handlers, for which he was paid substantial amounts. Those reports were primarily on global and regional geo-political issues and developments, including issues related to Singapore. To this end, Yeo had approached various individuals in Singapore whom he thought would have privileged information on the issues. He had also set up a front company in Singapore and placed employment advertisements on social networking sites, with a view to identify potential writers and talent-spot individuals for his foreign handlers. Using research for foreign clients as a cover, Yeo had informed the individuals he approached and the potential writers that the taskings were instead “research topics” for various foreign clients.
4. On the direction of his handlers, Yeo had also applied for sensitive government positions in order to enrich his reports with privileged policy insights and classified information. However, his attempts to secure employment in the public sector were unsuccessful.
5. Based on ISD’s investigation findings, Yeo did not manage to obtain and pass on any classified information about Singapore to his foreign handlers. Information from ISD’s interviews with individuals whom Yeo had approached and other related investigations have largely corroborated what Yeo has disclosed or admitted to. The threat that Yeo poses as a foreign agent is assessed to be effectively neutralised. As such, he does not pose a security threat that warrants continued detention.
6. Attempts to target Singapore or use Singaporeans as proxies to pursue the interests of foreign states are not new. However, Yeo’s case demonstrates how the threat has become more pronounced with the prevalence of social media, which has made it easier for foreign intelligence services to talent-spot, groom and cultivate potential agents, even from abroad. The threat has manifested widely in several other countries, where retired/serving civil servants and individuals in the private sector with access to classified or sensitive information, have been targeted by foreign intelligence services via social networking sites. Singaporeans must therefore remain vigilant to such dangers posed by foreign agents, who may use social media profiles to offer attractive business or career opportunities, or even try to obtain sensitive information.
7. The Singapore Government takes a very serious view of anyone who enters into a clandestine relationship with a foreign government and engages in activities at the behest of the foreign power that is inimical to our national security and interests, including bilateral relations. Anyone who suspects that they, or people that they know of, may have been approached by foreign agents should contact the Internal Security Department at 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).
Internal Security Department
14 December 2021