Channel NewsAsia

Tougher laws to fight cross-border crime

Parliament has passed a Bill to amend the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. This is to allow requests for mutual legal assistance to be considered, even if it does not fulfil the Dual Criminality requirement.

SINGAPORE: Parliament on Tuesday (July 8) passed a Bill seeking amendments to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, allowing Singapore to strengthen its role in international efforts against transnational crimes and better provide assistance to foreign countries.

The Bill signals Singapore's commitment to combat crime internationally -- a commitment that is increasingly relevant with growing cross-border crime. For instance, the routes for exporting heroin to Australia have increased from 10 countries in 2000-2001 to 20 countries a decade later in 2010-2011.

Mutual legal assistance occurs when countries request assistance in obtaining evidence located in one country for the purpose of criminal investigation. The Law Ministry said such requests received by Singapore have doubled, from 67 in 2007 to 134 last year.

Currently, requests to Singapore for mutual legal assistance are refused if they relate to investigations for an act that is not an offence here. However, this requirement will be removed for selected types of assistance.

"For instance, if a person voluntarily consents to give evidence or provide assistance in a foreign court concerning a foreign offence even though it would not have constituted a serious offence in Singapore, that request can be considered and should not be automatically refused simply because it does not fulfil the Dual Criminality requirement," said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

With the amendments, the list of offences which Singapore can provide mutual legal assistance will also be expanded to include those not linked to money-laundering such as selected Road Traffic Act offences. 

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