22nd Interpol-Asian Regional Conference at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre - Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs

Published: 15 April 2015

Secretary General Jurgen Stock

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


Good morning and welcome to Singapore.



2     We are honoured to co-host this year's INTERPOL-Asian Regional Conference.  This is an important event for the INTERPOL family.  This year's edition is all the more significant because we had the honour and pleasure to inaugurate the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (or IGCI) in Singapore earlier this week on Monday. We look forward to Secretary General Jurgen Stock's stewardship of Interpol, one of the most important security agency internationally. His presence in this conference is a testament of his commitment and we like to see more of it in this part of the world.


3     The Asian Regional Conference is an established forum – this year marks its 22nd edition.  This biennial conference is a key platform for INTERPOL's Asian and South Pacific member countries, to share experiences and best practices in the fight against crime as well as to forge relationships and partnerships within the enforcement family. 


Security threats faced by the region

4     Forging strong partnerships is essential to enable the flow of information and intelligence to facilitate collaboration across countries. Our region is a prosperous one.  Asia Pacific economies continue to enjoy growth year after year.  However, this rapid economic growth increases the attractiveness of this region to organised crime.     Law enforcement agencies need to be alert to the threats that are lurking in order to protect the safety and stability of the region, and for terrorist attacks to be effectively prevented and countered only if we can work together. 


5     Three key areas in the safety and security domain dominate our attention. First, traditional crime concerns that remains prevalent in the region.  Second, the rising threat of terrorism, and third, policing in the cyber domain.


Traditional security concerns

6     Traditional illegal activities, such as the production and trafficking of drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking, continue to remain areas of concern.  Aided by advances in technology, and especially with cheaper and improved transportation and communications, the reach of these criminals has expanded tremendously.  Ironically, with technological development and integration, the connectivity that comes with it has allowed the easy facilitation of these illegal activities.  The sale of counterfeit medicine, for example, can now be easily pushed using the Internet and convenient courier services. 

Criminals will continue to leverage technologies, such as the Internet and web resources, to facilitate trafficking for sexual exploitation.  It is estimated that the annual earnings of transnational organised crime in the Asia-Pacific is 360 billion USD[1].  


Rising threat of terrorism

7     An evolving threat is the linkages between organised crime and terrorist networks.  This includes the funding of terrorist groups through the illegal activities of organised crime networks.


8     This brings us to my next point, terrorism.  The Sydney siege in December 2014, the Paris attacks in January 2015, and the Copenhagen shooting in February 2015, are stark examples of recent terrorist attacks and atrocities. 

Terrorists are opportunistic and difficult to detect, especially home-grown terrorists. They are the potential time-bombs that can destabilise the safety and security of our countries and region and will require collective inter-agency and international efforts to tackle. Terrorism is one of the most pressing challenges in this region too.  Southeast Asia is home to indigenous Islamic militant groups.  In the past, these groups were relatively weak and operated within their own countries, with a focus on domestic issues.  However, there has been an emergence of radical Islamic movements largely due to globalisation, with these groups cooperating with larger terrorist groups outside the region for funding and training.  Such groups now become global threats.


9     A newer significant concern is self-radicalisation. With access to an estimated 6000 extremist websites currently online, people especially youth could easily be influenced by terrorist ideology and messages. 

This increases the threat of "lone-wolf" attacks by terrorists who are not part of any network.  Even though the scale of attacks may not be as massive, these autonomous small scale attacks do cause significant community fear, and are harder to detect and prevent[2].   


Policing in the Cyber domain

10     Finally, as our region develops and our peoples become more technologically savvy, key aspects of our daily lives such as financial transactions, have moved to the cyber domain.  As criminals follow the money, cybercrime has emerged as the most prevalent technology-enabled crime of today.  The anonymity provided by the Internet, the lack of regulations governing the use of cyberspace, the easy pickings that present in cyberspace because of poor security awareness and poor security hygiene, increasingly attract organised crime and terrorists to embrace cybercrime as their preferred mode of crime. 

11     In addition to the financial attraction, the cyber domain is increasingly used to spread fear, religious extremism and ideological propaganda.  Critical infrastructures of nations, from banking to energy generation, are today highly reliant on computers.  Running on electronic platforms, these infrastructures are vulnerable to malicious disruptions by hackers.   The cyber attack last week on the French television network, TV5Monde, is a stern reminder of our public platforms' vulnerabilities.  Singapore too has not been spared by cyber attacks, with both Government and commercial websites targeted.   Cybercrime has the potential to inflict damage at all levels of society and is a major concern for the region and globally.  We must work together to tackle this threat.


Commendable regional efforts in the fight against crime

12     The three areas that I have mentioned are the key security threats we face as a collective Asia-Pacific group. I cannot emphasise enough that it is in the common interest of all countries to band together, to nurture networks of trust under which bilateral and multilateral cooperation against criminal activities can take place. 


13     We have done considerably well to facilitate regional dialogue on safety and security.  The ASEAN Ministerial Meetings on Transnational Crime, the East Asia Summit and ASEANAPOL, allow leaders of our region to meet and discuss the pressing security challenges of the region on a regular basis and how to deal with these challenges. 


14     INTERPOL has a key role to play in safety and security and I would like to commend INTERPOL for its tireless efforts in building bridges amongst member countries to form a global network of crime fighters. The INTERPOL of today offers member states good operational value. Member countries can actively leverage INTERPOL's databases and information sharing networks to assist one another in our crime fighting efforts.  INTERPOL has also organised various capability building conferences for member countries to learn best practices and build networks to combat transnational crimes. A good example is the 1st Eurasian Working Group on Cybercrime for the Head of Units held in Singapore last year. The Working Group was expanded from the previous Asia Pacific Working Group on IT Crimes to include our European counterparts.  Over two days, the Working Group discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in operational support, capacity building, as well as harmonise international efforts in combating cybercrime.


15     INTERPOL has also coordinated many successful joint operations to disrupt criminal networks in the region, such as Operation Soccer Gambling, an ongoing tactical operation coordinated by INTERPOL, bringing countries together to combat organised illegal soccer gambling in Asia.  The last operation – held during the 2014 FIFA World Cup – resulted in more than 1,000 raids, with approximately 1,400 arrests. 


16     With the establishment of the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, we can look forward to even better support from INTERPOL for the region's crime fighting efforts, especially in the area of cybercrime.  The IGCI is well placed to be the global policing hub for cybercrime issues, facilitating cooperation between national cybercrime investigators and private partners through the sharing of data, expertise and knowledge. 

It also aims to strengthen the global network of cybercrime investigators through the setting of global standards and protocols in cybercrime investigation and forensics. 


17     We can already see the good work done by the IGCI.  Just last year, the IGCI coordinated a successful operation against a crime group in the Philippines which preyed on thousands of victims in Asia through "sex-tortion" scams conducted online.  With the sharing of information between INTERPOL and regional police forces, the operation yielded the arrest of 66 suspects and the seizure of 350 electronic devices.  Earlier this week, INTERPOL also announced a highly successful operation coordinated by the IGCI tackling the Simda botnet.  Simda has been used by cyber criminals to gain remote access to computers, allowing criminals to steal personal details and install malicious malware. 


Coordinating the efforts and capabilities of private partners, such as Microsoft, Trend Micro, Kaspersky Lab, INTERPOL unveiled useful intelligence by mapping the spread of the infections, allowing INTERPOL to locate the sources and take enforcement action.


18     This current age demands that all of us in law enforcement work tightly and collaboratively in an enabling network. This week, we have seen the IGCI open on a high note with its latest operational success, the first-ever INTERPOL World conference and exhibition, and now this Asian Regional Conference. These networking platforms have aimed at facilitating relationship building on an institution-to-institution level and at the person-to-person level, as well as the acquisition of new knowledge. I hope that you will fully leverage these opportunities.



19     A safer Asia and South Pacific is our common aim.  It is certainly within our reach if we can collectively harness the full potential of the law enforcement agencies in our region, working hand in glove with INTERPOL and the IGCI.  I would like to encourage all participants to build a strong network and share your experiences at this 22nd INTERPOL Asian Regional Conference.  The collective wisdom of this conference will translate into tangible cooperation and sharper enforcement strategies. 


20     I wish you all a successful and fruitful conference, to keep us safe and secure. 


21     Thank you.



[1] Organized Crime poses major threat to Asia-Pacific nations, 2015 – www.dw.de/organized-crime-poses-major-threat-to-asia-pacific-nations/a-18283320


[2] S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies – Countering the self-radicalised Lone Wolf: A new paradigm?   


Managing Security Threats