Published: 21 September 2022
Chairman and AMMTC Leader of Cambodia,
Your Excellency Samdech Kralahorm Sar Kheng,
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
A very good morning.
1. Let me express Singapore’s appreciation to the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia for hosting the 16th AMMTC and Its Related Meetings this year.
2. The AMMTC is an important platform for the ASEAN community to strengthen cooperation with regional and international partners, to tackle transnational crime and ensure a safer region for our people.
3. At the recent 22nd SOMTC, most ASEAN Member States (AMS) reported an increase in transnational crime following the relaxation of border measures and the resumption of international travel post COVID-19. Let me touch on three trends of concern, namely cybercrime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking.
4. Cybercrime has proliferated and persisted during the COVID pandemic. In Singapore, scams make up more than half of the number of reported crimes. While traditional crime is on the decline, there are more reported scam cases. About 24,000 scam cases were reported in Singapore in 2021 – a 53% increase from 2020. Victims lost more than S$630 million to scams in 2021, more than two times the amount lost to scams in the previous year. Most of these scams were cyber-enabled.
5. A large majority of scam syndicates operate across jurisdictions. Transnational cooperation is thus vital to tackle scams. For example, in July and August this year, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) collaborated successfully to arrest 13 individuals from transnational syndicates that targeted victims from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. These syndicates targeted more than 60 victims in Singapore, with losses amounting to more than S$1.3 million. We would like to thank the Royal Malaysia Police for their strong support.
6. Besides apprehending the criminals, we must also focus our efforts on asset recovery. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the global asset recovery rate is less than 1% . This means that criminal syndicates are retaining almost all of their illegal proceeds, which they would use to expand and level up their criminal activities.
7. Today, asset recovery efforts are fragmented and there is no effective international framework on asset freezing and recovery that matches the speed with which criminal syndicates move their funds. Swift and seamless cross-border collaboration and cooperation is of paramount importance.
8. The Singapore Police Force also works closely with Interpol, other partner law enforcement agencies and local banks on recovery and return of proceeds of crime. In one such case, US$69 million worth of criminal proceeds that had been transferred across 24 countries, including through Singapore, was successfully recovered. This case demonstrate that criminal syndicates will not be able to hide their illicit proceeds if law enforcement agencies cooperate with one another in asset tracing and interdiction.
9. As the ASEAN Lead Shepherd for Cybercrime, Singapore organised the 4th ASEAN Plus Three Cybercrime Conference on 22 July 2021 to build capacity and share best practices to level up the competencies of law enforcement officers in the region. Singapore will host the 8th Senior Officials Roundtable on Cybercrime (SORC) next month to discuss new areas of collaborations to combat cybercrime with industry partners. I look forward to member countries’ participation in the Roundtable.
10. The ASEAN Cybercrime Operations Desk or “ASEAN Desk” continues to play a key role in building up the region's defence against cybercrime. It published its second ASEAN cyberthreat assessment report to help ASEAN member countries stay ahead of the latest developments and trends, and coordinated intelligence-led regional operations against cybercrime.
11. Having access to INTERPOL’s networks, knowledge, intelligence and capabilities at the ASEAN Desk would greatly enhance the collective national and regional expertise of ASEAN to tackle cybercrime. I would like to express my appreciation to Vietnam and Brunei for seconding officers to join Singapore at the ASEAN Desk, and urge other ASEAN Member States to do so as well.
12. Next, Singapore remains vigilant to the threat of terrorism and extremism. With the resumption of cross-border travel, terrorist elements may increase their activities and revisit plots that had been put on hold.
13. We observed that digital platforms had facilitated communication between regional ISIS supporters and the ISIS Core in Syria and Iraq. For example, in March this year, Indonesian authorities arrested five members of a pro-ISIS media group, who had allegedly received instructions to translate propaganda materials into Bahasa Indonesia. Such linkages could boost operational capabilities of pro-ISIS groups in the region to direct terror attacks in Southeast Asia.
14. Self-radicalisation is another key terrorism threat. Since 2015, Singapore has dealt with 45 self-radicalised individuals under the Internal Security Act. Most recently, a self-radicalised 29-year-old Singaporean was detained in April 2022. He had considered travelling to Afghanistan to join Taliban militants and would consider conducting an attack in Singapore if instructed to.
15. Singapore invests heavily in upstream counter-ideology efforts to prevent radical extremism, particularly on online platforms, from taking roots in our society. We also work closely with religious and community partners to support such efforts which include organising outreach programmes to educate the community and youths on religious concepts which are misinterpreted by terrorist and extremist groups.
16. Regional cooperation and close collaboration with our strategic partners, such as INTERPOL remain vital in the fight against terrorism. INTERPOL’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Node (RCTN) for Asia and South Pacific facilitates intelligence sharing and cooperation within ASEAN to enhance counter-terrorism efforts.
17. I urge AMS to second officers to the RCTN to build strong networks, enhance information sharing and contribute to ASEAN’s capabilities and responses to the threat of terrorism.
18. Trafficking of illicit drugs increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Singapore, authorities made drug seizures amounting to an estimated market value of around S$18 million in 2021, close to 50% higher than the previous year.
In May this year, our authorities seized nearly 18kg of heroin at a land checkpoint – the largest reported single haul since 2001. With the relaxation of border measures, we are likely to see more trafficking attempts.
19. In addition, we are concerned on the growing number of countries that are adopting more liberal perspectives on drugs, particularly in relation to cannabis. This will send the wrong signal that cannabis is not harmful, despite strong evidence to the contrary, and will lead to increased production, trafficking and abuse of cannabis in the region.
20. We strongly urge all AMS to stand united in our vision of a drug-free ASEAN. Let us work together to prevent illicit drug trafficking and abuse, in line with the international drug control conventions and our vision for a drug-free ASEAN.
21. To conclude, ASEAN member states need to work closely together to address the threats of cybercrime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. Let us continue to stand united in our fight against transnational crime.
22. Thank you.
 UNODC, The Global Programme against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism 2011 to 2017: https://www.unodc.org/documents/evaluation/indepth-evaluations/2017/GLOU40_GPML_Mid-Term_In-Depth_Evaluation_Final_Report_October_2017.pdf