Exchange of Views on National, Regional and International Efforts in Combating Transnational Crime at 15th AMMTC Plenary - Country Statement by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment

Published: 29 September 2021

Mr Chairman and AMMTC Leader of Brunei Darussalam,

Your Excellency Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof

Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

A very good morning. Selamat Pagi.


1.    I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Your Excellency, Pehin Halbi, and the government of Brunei Darussalam for hosting the AMMTC meetings this year. As with the 21st SOMTC meetings in July, the resumption of the meetings demonstrates ASEAN’s commitment to tackle transnational crime.

2.    Transnational crime threatens all our countries and has persisted amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our efforts to tackle these threats must also evolve with the threats; close cooperation between ASEAN Member States, as well as our regional and international partners, remains paramount.

3.    Cybercrime, terrorism, and drug trafficking continue to be the key areas of focus for Singapore.


4.    Cybercrime is a rising global threat. More devices are being connected to the internet. People are transacting more online. These provide opportunities for criminal syndicates to exploit vulnerabilities to make money. Cybersecurity experts project the total net cost of cybercrime to reach US$10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from US$3 trillion in 2015.

5.    Singapore saw an increase of 11.2 per cent in the crime cases reported in the first half of this year, largely fuelled by a rise in scam cases, which rose 16 per cent compared to a year ago. Scams now accounted for 43 per cent of all crimes in Singapore.

6.    Cybercrime has been enabled by the use of enhanced encryption technologies, which allow cybercriminals to hide their criminal activities and evade detection by law enforcement agencies. Cryptocurrencies have become a popular choice for cybercriminals to cover their tracks while moving their illegal gains with ease.

7.    As cybercrime evolves, we must also upgrade our arsenal of tools to deal with this threat. At the national level, we need comprehensive national strategies, strong legislation, as well as effective enforcement.

8.    No country can win this fight alone. Most scams are committed by transnational crime syndicates. Countries need to work closely together to combat cybercrime.

9.    An example is Operation HAECHI-I, a transnational joint operation supported by the Republic of Korea and coordinated by INTERPOL between September 2020 to March this year. It involved investigators and law enforcement agencies from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. More than 500 arrests were made and US$ 83 million intercepted across Asia-Pacific.

10.   Between June and September 2021, the Singapore Police Force and the Royal Malaysia Police conducted a number of joint operations that led to several arrests in both countries and the dismantling of three transnational internet love and job scam crime syndicates.

11.   Strategic partners such as INTERPOL also play an important role in building up our defence against cybercrime. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the ASEAN Desk at the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) has continued its regional capability and capacity-building efforts with ASEAN Member States.

12.   I strongly urge all ASEAN Member States to second suitable law enforcement officers to the ASEAN Desk to leverage INTERPOL’s networks, knowledge, intelligence, and capabilities to fight cybercrime.

13.   Besides cooperation between our law enforcement agencies, we must also strengthen partnerships with the private sector. The services that they provide touch every aspect of our citizens’ lives, from telecommunications, banking, e-commerce, and social media. Hence, there is a crucial role for the private sector in preventing and stopping cybercrime.

14.   To encourage discussions on how we can strengthen public-private partnership, Singapore hosted the 7th Senior Officials Roundtable on Cybercrime (SORC) on 20 September 2021. The meeting provided the opportunity for SOMTC leaders and Plus Three Dialogue Partner countries to meet industry partners to discuss the latest threats, trends, and collaborative initiatives to combat cybercrime. Member states also acknowledged the need for more effective regulation of the online space to protect our citizens from cyber threats. I thank all member states for your active participation in this meeting.


15.   Next, terrorism is another serious and persistent threat.

16.   ISIS remains resilient despite leadership and territorial losses. The security vacuum and civil conflict in Afghanistan may also allow transnational terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda to regroup. Online terrorist propaganda remains a threat. Self-radicalised individuals influenced by violent extremist materials online has become the most serious security threat confronting Singapore and many countries today.

17.   A 16-year old Singaporean was detained in December 2020 after making “detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks” against Muslims. He was inspired by far-right extremist ideology, and was influenced by the 2019 terror attacks in Christchurch. Upstream counter-ideology efforts such as the promotion of positive counter-narratives and fostering greater understanding and harmony across different religious groups are crucial towards preventing radical ideology from taking root in our society.

18.   International cooperation is crucial as well in our fight against terrorism. Our agencies must continue to share intelligence, including information to facilitate terrorist watch-listing.

19.   To enhance our information-sharing and strengthen ASEAN’s collective defence, I strongly urge ASEAN Member States to second your law enforcement officers to the Regional Counter-Terrorism Node at the IGCI in Singapore. This secondment will provide ample opportunities to enhance our officers’ networks and experience, and contribute to ASEAN’s capabilities and response to the threat of terrorism.

Illicit Drugs / Trafficking

20.   Drug trafficking and abuse remains another key concern. In Singapore, drug seizures remained high, with the estimated street value of drugs seized in 2020 amounting to about S$12.18 million – almost double that of the S$6.49 million worth of drugs seized in 2019. Drug abuse among the youth remains a concern, with the proportion of abusers aged 30 and below forming 62 per cent of new abusers arrested.

21.   Singapore has a comprehensive drug control strategy that tackles both drug supply and demand through upstream preventive education, through legislation and rigorous enforcement, and effective rehabilitation as well as aftercare. We also participate actively in regional meetings such as the ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters and the ASEAN Drug Monitoring Network.

22.   We are disappointed with the outcome of last year’s vote at the CND to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. This could mislead the people into thinking that cannabis is no longer harmful. The UNODC’s World Drug Report 2021 found that the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell significantly even as cannabis potency has quadrupled. In fact, the same report found that cannabis remains the most widely abused drug in the world. There is a need to step up our efforts to educate our population about the harms of cannabis abuse.

23.   I urge ASEAN Member States to remain committed to ASEAN’s zero tolerance position and stance against drugs. ASEAN must work together to prevent any further weakening of the international drug controls, so as to better protect our people, especially our youths, from the harms of drugs.


24.   Mr Chairman and fellow ASEAN Member States, the transnational crime and security threats we face together are evolving and pressing. We must all continue to remain united and work closely to deal with the evolving threats and keep our region safe.

25.   Thank you.