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 gratitude to the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia for hosting the 16thth AMMTC and related meetings this year.
2. The AMMTC is an important platform for the ASEAN community to strengthen cooperation with regional and international partners, fight cross-border crime and ensure a safer region for our people.
3. Recent 22ndnd SOMTC, most ASEAN Member States (AMS), reported an increase in cross-border crime following the easing of border measures and the resumption of post-COVID-19 international travel. Let me address three worrying trends, namely cybercrime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking.
4. Cybercrime has ramped up and continues during the COVID pandemic. Fraud accounts for more than half of reported crimes in Singapore. While traditional crime is declining, there are more reported cases of fraud. In 2021, about 24,000 cases of fraud were reported in Singapore – a 53% increase from 2020. Victims lost more than S$630 million to fraud in 2021, more than double the amount lost to fraud the previous year. Most of these scams were cyber enabled.
5. A large majority of scam syndicates operate in multiple jurisdictions. Transnational cooperation is therefore crucial in the fight against fraud. For example, in July and August this year, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) successfully worked together to arrest 13 people from transnational syndicates targeting victims from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. These syndicates targeted more than 60 victims in Singapore, with losses in excess of S$1.3 million. We would like to thank the Royal Malaysia Police for their strong support.
6. Besides arresting the criminals, we must also focus our efforts on asset recovery. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the global asset recovery rate is less than 1% . This means that criminal syndicates keep almost all of their illicit proceeds, which they would use to expand and level their criminal activities.
7. Today, asset confiscation efforts are fragmented and there is no effective international framework for freezing and confiscating assets that matches the speed at which criminal syndicates move their funds. Fast and smooth cross-border cooperation and cooperation is of paramount importance.
8. The Singapore Police Force also works closely with Interpol, other partner law enforcement agencies and local banks in the confiscation and return of criminal proceeds. In one such case, $69 million worth of crime proceeds transferred across 24 countries, including Singapore, were successfully recovered. This case shows that criminal syndicates cannot hide their illicit earnings when law enforcement cooperates to identify and stop assets.
9. As ASEAN Lead Shepherd for Cybercrime, Singapore organized the 4thth ASEAN Plus Three Cybercrime Conference on July 22, 2021 to build capacity and share best practices to improve the skills of law enforcement officials in the region. Singapore will host the 8thth Senior Officials Roundtable on Cybercrime (SORC) next month to discuss new areas of cybercrime collaboration with industry partners. I look forward to the participation of the member countries in the round table.
10. The ASEAN Cybercrime Operations Desk or “ASEAN Desk” continues to play a key role in building the region’s defenses against cybercrime. It released its second ASEAN Cyber Threat Assessment Report to help ASEAN member countries stay ahead of the latest developments and trends, and coordinated intelligence-led regional operations against cybercrime.
11. Access to INTERPOL’s networks, knowledge, information and capabilities in the ASEAN Desk would greatly enhance ASEAN’s collective national and regional expertise in countering cybercrime. I would like to express my appreciation to Vietnam and Brunei for sending officials to the ASEAN desk in Singapore, and I would like to call on other ASEAN member states to do the same.
12. Next, Singapore remains vigilant against the threat of terrorism and extremism. With cross-border travel resuming, terrorist elements could step up their activities and revisit plans that have been put on hold.
13. We found 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 allegedly received orders to translate propaganda material into Bahasa Indonesia. Such links could bolster the operational capabilities of pro-ISIS groups in the region to direct terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia.
14. Self-radicalization is another key terrorist threat. Since 2015, Singapore has dealt with 45 self-radicalized individuals under the Internal Security Act. Most recently, in April 2022, a self-radicalized 29-year-old Singaporean was arrested. He had considered traveling to Afghanistan to join Taliban fighters and would consider staging an attack in Singapore if called upon.
15. Singapore invests heavily in upstream anti-ideology efforts to prevent radical extremism, particularly on online platforms, from taking root in our society. We also work closely with religious and community partners to support such efforts, which include organizing outreach programs to educate the community and youth about religious concepts that are misinterpreted by terrorist and extremist groups.
16. Regional cooperation and close cooperation with our strategic partners such as INTERPOL remain crucial in the fight against terrorism. INTERPOL’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Node (RCTN) for Asia and the South Pacific facilitates information-sharing and cooperation within ASEAN to enhance counter-terrorism efforts.
17. I call on AMS to deploy officers to the RCTN to build strong networks, improve information sharing and contribute to ASEAN’s capabilities and response to the threat of terrorism.
18. Trafficking in illicit drugs has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Singapore, authorities seized drugs with an estimated market value of around S$18 million in 2021, almost 50% more than the previous year.
In May this year, our authorities seized nearly 18kg of heroin at a land checkpoint – the largest single shipment reported since 2001. As border measures relax, we are likely to see more attempts at smuggling.
19. We are also concerned about the growing number of countries adopting a more liberal perspective on drugs, especially cannabis. This will send the wrong signal that cannabis is not harmful despite strong evidence to the contrary, and lead to increased production, trafficking and abuse of cannabis in the region.
20. We urge all AMS to stand together in our vision of a drug-free ASEAN. Let’s work together to prevent illicit drug trafficking and abuse in line with international drug control treaties and our vision of a drug-free ASEAN.
21. In summary, ASEAN member states must work closely together to combat the threats of cybercrime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. Let us continue to stand united in our fight against cross-border crime.
22. Thank you.
 UNODC, The Global Program 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