Singapore’s crime rate “is the lowest in the last three years and compares favourably with other major cities”, said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations and Intelligence) Tan Chye Hee in February. (See here.)
In 2015, Singapore was ranked 2nd safest city in the world, just behind Tokyo, by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit.
The Government here frequently boasts about the city’s low-crime reputation and its harsh, zero-tolerance stance on criminal activities. Just last month, the island-state’s hardline, no-nonsense Home Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam, warned that no one is above the law, “regardless of who you are”, whether you are a Minister, a Member of Parliament, a chief executive or a cleric.
Yet, in the last few years, the country has been the preferred choice of refuge for those from other lands who are running from the law there. These include, especially, corrupt officials, business people, and criminals wanted by their respective authorities.
The question is: why do these criminals prefer Singapore, which has a reputation for being a “clean” city with an uncorrupt government and an unstinting stand on crime? Heck, it even has the death penalty for drug traffickers, murderers and even kidnappers.
To be sure, the Singapore authorities do cooperate and work with their counterparts in the respective countries in extraditing, where it is applicable, or even arresting and jailing, these fugitives, although there are some whose presence here are tacitly welcome, such as Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe.
The latest person to join this list of rather infamous fugitives is the 32-year old billionaire scion of the Red Bull empire, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, who is wanted by the Thai police for a fatal hit-and-run accident in 2012 which killed a policeman.
He was reported to have fled to Singapore via his private jet which is believed to have landed in Seletar Airport earlier this week. His arrest has become a political matter back home because of public perception there that the rich and connected are treated leniently by the authorities.
Singapore and Thailand do not have any extradition agreement, and it would be interesting to see how the Singapore authorities deal with any requests from Thailand to hand him over.
We take a little walk down the last 3 years or so (2015-2017) and recall the more prominent people, wanted for criminal offences in their own countries, who have fled to Singapore.
Do keep in mind that just because they have fled to Singapore it doesn’t mean that they necessarily have been able to remain or stay in the country indefinitely. In fact, some of them have been arrested and handed over to their respective countries to be prosecuted for their original crimes or offences.
2015: Indonesia – A director of a private company is wanted by the authorities for having bribed officials at the Trade Ministry.
2015: China – “Li Huabo, former section director of the finance bureau in Poyang county, in Jiangxi province, fled to Singapore in January 2011, after being accused of fraud involving 94 million yuan (HK$119 million).”
2016: Zimbabwe – “Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday reportedly left the country for Singapore ahead of today’s nationwide stay away against President Robert Mugabe and his government’s failure to turn around the economy and deal with corruption.”
2016: Indonesia – “The president of the Football Association of Indonesia is believed to have fled to Singapore after he was named in a graft case in his home country last month.”
2016: Indonesia – “”Mr Hartawan appealed to the Minister for Home Affairs against the Controller’s decision. After due and careful consideration of the representations and documents submitted by Mr Hartawan Aluwi, the Minister rejected the appeal,” MHA said in the statement.”
2016: Cambodia – “Wealthy businessman Sok Bun fled to Singapore after the attack, but returned to Cambodia after calls from strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen to give himself up.”
2016: Indonesia – “Indonesia is seeking assistance from Singapore to extradite a key graft fugitive identified as Samadikun Hartono, who is believed to be living in the neighboring country… Samadikun fled Indonesia after being found guilty of misusing Bank Indonesia’s bailout fund.”
2016: Indonesia – “Indonesia has given Singapore a list of fugitives, part of back-channel efforts to nab those who had fled the country after being convicted of crimes.
“Mr Atmadji Sumarkidjo, a senior official from the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi sent the list to the Singapore authorities recently, as both nations intensify cooperation in law enforcement. The cooperation is being conducted in lieu of an extradition treaty.”
2017: Philippines – “After months of living in hiding, Arturo Lascanas – a former police officer who accused Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte of orchestrating a decades-long campaign of death squads and lawless murder – has fled to Singapore.
“The retired 56-year-old officer is a self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a group he alleges was formed in the late 1980s by then mayor Rodrigo Duterte, to kill hardened criminals, drug dealers and political opponents.”
2017: India – “”I have been doing a lot of back and forth trips to Singapore. I will be back on 31st March,” a text message reportedly sent from Mr Acharya to his neighbours in January read.”
2017: North Korea – “According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, which cited government sources, Mr Kim, who was critical of North Korea, fled to Singapore in 2012 – because his Macau home was exposed to the media and North Korean spies.”
2017: Thailand – “Thai police say the heir to the Red Bull empire, Vorayuth Yoovidhaya, who is wanted in Thailand over the death of a police officer, has fled to Singapore. Authorities have said he left last Tuesday, days before a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to show up to face charges.”
Under Singapore law repatriation or deportation of foreigners is an executive decision, allowed for under the Immigration Act.
Under the Immigration Act, if the Minister for Home Affairs assesses that it is undesirable for a foreigner to remain in Singapore, he can be ordered to leave or deported.