- Published on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 08:14
SINGAPORE: To further bolster the Republic’s arsenal to combat transnational crime, Parliament yesterday passed changes to laws, easing the requirements for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters requested by a foreign country and vice versa.
Some changes under the amended Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act include the removal of the criteria for dual-criminality, where the conduct must constitute an offence in both countries for the enforcement of foreign confiscation orders.
This means that Singapore can now arrange for a person to give evidence or provide assistance in a foreign criminal matter if he consents to do so, even if it concerns a foreign offence that would not have constituted an offence in Singapore. This is applicable to non-coercive types of assistance which do not attract penal consequences for non-compliance, nor adversely affect the property rights of individuals.
The requirement was also removed for foreign tax evasion offences in cases where assistance is needed in search and seizure orders from jurisdictions that have an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) or Exchange of Information agreement or international tax compliance agreement with Singapore. Countries with which Singapore has a DTA include Australia, China and Saudi Arabia.
“These changes demonstrate Singapore’s commitment towards combating cross-border financial crimes and address any misperception that Singapore is a shelter for tax-illicit monies,” said Senior Minister of State (Law and Education) Indranee Rajah in Parliament yesterday.
Other amendments to the Act include a “catch-all” provision where mutual legal assistance will be available for all Singapore offences carrying a maximum sentence of four years’ imprisonment.
The list of offences under the Act has been extended to include offences such as selected Road Traffic Act offences, illegal activities beyond drug trafficking and serious offences as defined in the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes Act.