Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore

Last updated on April 22, 2019

Man taking woman's bag, woman in background distressed

If you are thinking that you can commit a crime in Singapore and escape the legal consequences of doing so by fleeing the country, think again.

The Extradition Act (EA) provides a basis for you to be brought back to Singapore to be dealt with by the proper authorities according to law.

What is Extradition?

Extradition is the formal process by which someone who has been accused or convicted of a crime, and who has fled overseas, is handed back to the jurisdiction of the country in which the crime was committed, to face the legal consequences of committing the crime.

For example, if the accused committed a crime in Singapore and fled to another country, the accused may be extradited from that country to Singapore.

Extradition Treaties and Arrangements

As the process of extradition involves the co-operation of two or more countries, some countries have concluded extradition treaties or arrangements with each other.

Extradition treaties

Extradition treaties establish the conditions under which extradition to and from the signatory countries may take place.

Treaties are legally binding on the signatory countries, obliging them to act in accordance with the agreed conditions. This ensures greater transparency and clarity in the extradition process.

A treaty can be bilateral (between two countries), or multilateral (among several countries).

Extradition arrangements

In the absence of an extradition treaty, countries may have extradition arrangements with each other. These arrangements do not have the status of a treaty, but may nonetheless derive legal force from the written laws of the respective countries (such as the EA in Singapore’s case).

Where there is no treaty or arrangement present, extradition may be governed by the provisions of the involved countries’ present laws.

Which Countries Does Singapore have Extradition Treaties and/or Arrangements With?

Singapore has bilateral extradition treaties with Hong Kong, the United States and Germany. These countries are referred to as “Foreign States” in the EA.

Singapore also has extradition arrangements with 40 Declared Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, as part of the London Scheme for extradition within the Commonwealth.

Special extradition arrangements are also in place with Malaysia and Brunei based on mutual recognition of arrest warrants.

Conditions of an Extradition Treaty

Extradition from Foreign States

For extradition from Foreign States to Singapore, the offence committed must be an “extraditable crime” stated in the First Schedule of the EA. Some examples of extraditable crimes in Singapore include:

Conditions of an Extradition Arrangement

Extradition from a Declared Commonwealth country

For extradition from a Declared Commonwealth country to Singapore, the offence must be an “extraditable crime” stated in the First Schedule of the EA, with the additional requirement that the offence must carry a maximum penalty of death or imprisonment for a period of at least 12 months.

However, where other offences have been committed, the accused (after being extradited back to Singapore):

  • Can only be detained or tried in Singapore for an offence he is alleged to have committed before his surrender, that is:
    • Related to the extraditable crime he was surrendered to Singapore for; or
    • Lesser than that which he was surrendered to Singapore for.
  • Cannot be detained or tried in Singapore for another extraditable crime unless the Commonwealth country he was surrendered by has consented to it.
  • Can only be detained in Singapore for the purpose of surrendering him to another country for trial or punishment for the offence he is alleged to have committed before his surrender to Singapore, if:
    • The offence is a lesser offence which he could be convicted of based on the proof of the facts on which his surrender was based; or
    • The country he was surrendered by consents to it.

Extradition from Malaysia

For extradition from Malaysia, the crime need not fall within the list of “extraditable crimes” in the First Schedule of the EA.

Instead a person may be brought back to Singapore, to be dealt with by the proper authorities in accordance with Singapore law, so long as he/she is accused of or convicted of committing:

  • A seizable offence (an offence for which the police can make an arrest without a warrant); or
  • An offence punishable on conviction with imprisonment of at least 6 months under Malaysian law.

What Happens If an Accused Flees Singapore to a Country Which Singapore has Not Concluded an Extradition Treaty or Arrangement With?

In such a case, Singapore may still make a request to the country in question to extradite the person. However, there is a possibility that the country may reject the request.

For example, when the Canadian national involved in the 2016 Standard Chartered Robbery case fled to Thailand, a country with whom Singapore has no extradition treaty, the Attorney-General’s Office in Thailand rejected Singapore’s request for the person’s extradition on the basis that it was “not in a position to consider it”.

Instead, the Thai authorities convicted him for money laundering offences, as he had brought into Thailand a sum that exceeded the permitted US$20,000 (equivalent to around S$27,600 – believed to be proceeds from the bank heist in Singapore).

What can Singapore do if its extradition request to the other country is rejected?

The Singapore authorities may have to wait for the accused person to arrive in a different country (especially one with whom Singapore has an extradition treaty or arrangement), before making a new request to that country to secure his/her extradition.

This could apply where the accused person freely travels to another country (e.g. if he/she has not been detained under an arrest warrant), or during the process of his/her deportation.

This was exactly what the Singapore authorities did in the case of the Canadian national involved in the Standard Chartered robbery. After serving his 14-month sentence for money laundering in Thailand, he was deported from Bangkok to Canada. It was while he was in transit in London that British authorities swooped in to arrest him on Singapore’s request.

That said, efforts to secure the Canadian’s extradition to Singapore have since hit a snag. Although Britain’s Secretary of State had ordered the Canadian’s extradition to Singapore on 29 August 2018, he lodged an appeal against the decision two days later.

Time will tell if Singapore will ultimately succeed in securing his extradition.

Can a Country Reject Singapore’s Request for Extradition Despite the Presence of a Treaty?

There is a possibility that even countries that have signed extradition treaties with Singapore may reject Singapore’s request for extradition. This could happen if they are of the view that the request does not meet the requirements for extradition under their laws.

For example, this was cited by some observers as a possible reason for Hong Kong’s rejection of Singapore’s request for the extradition of Malaysian businessman Jho Low in connection with the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption probe, although Hong Kong did not make their reasons public.

In past cases, Singapore has shown its willingness to make concessions in order to meet the other country’s requirements for extradition under their laws.

The Singapore authorities justified these concessions by suggesting that they were necessary to avoid a situation where extradition of an accused person cannot be secured to bring him before the Singapore courts to face trial, which would allow the accused person to “go off scot-free“.

For example, Australian law forbids the extradition of an individual to a country if he/she could receive the death penalty. Hence in the 2002 Orchard Towers Murders case, Singapore had to agree to an undertaking not to subject the alleged killer to the death penalty, in order to secure his extradition from Australia to Singapore.

Before the Singapore court, the killer eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and disposing of the victims’ bodies, and was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment.

UK law also prohibits extradition of a person to Singapore if he may be punished by caning, in light of the UK’s 1948 abolition of caning as a punishment for criminals.

As such, in order to secure the extradition of the Canadian national involved in the 2016 Standard Chartered Robbery case from the UK, the Singapore government had to make an assurance to the UK authorities that he would not be caned.

Can an Extradition Request be Contested?

Depending on the terms of the extradition treaty and the extradition laws of the country in question, an accused person who is subject to an extradition request may have the option of contesting his/her extradition through an application with the court of the country in which he is being held.

The court would then assess the merits of his application before deciding on an outcome.

An example of a person who has sought a contest of his extradition would be the Canadian national involved in the 2016 Standard Chartered Robbery (as described above).

The Process of Extradition to Singapore

The following steps summarises the general process by which extradition of an accused person to Singapore occurs:

  1. Singapore requests for the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to issue a Red Notice via the National Central Bureau, by providing information on the case. The Red Notice is a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition, and informs a foreign country that an accused person is wanted in that country.
  2. The authorities of the foreign country in question may issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused person, if they deem this justified based on the evidence in accordance with their laws. It should be noted that the arrest of an individual is subject to the determination of the authorities of the country in question. INTERPOL cannot compel any member country to arrest an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice.
  3. Singapore will make a formal extradition request to the country in question, seeking the accused person’s extradition to Singapore. Depending on the situation, this request may be made before the foreign country has issued an arrest warrant for the accused person’s arrest, or only after.
  4. The country in question would accept or reject the extradition request. The accused person may also be allowed to contest Singapore’s extradition request.
  5. If the foreign country has agreed to the extradition request, or the accused person’s application to contest extradition has failed, the accused person will be arrested.
  6. Singapore would then work together with the country in question to make arrangements for the accused person’s extradition to Singapore. Depending on the terms of the extradition treaty or a country’s extradition laws, there may be a maximum period of time for which the accused person can be held in custody in the foreign country, after which he/she would be released.

Once the accused person is in Singapore, he/she will be dealt with in accordance with Singapore law.

What Happens in Cases of Singaporeans Wanted for an Extradition Crime Overseas?

Just as one may be brought back to Singapore under the laws on extradition, a Singaporean wanted for an extradition crime overseas may also be extradited to the country in question if it has concluded an extradition treaty or arrangement with Singapore.

Singapore’s restrictions in approving the extradition requests

Under the EA, there are restrictions posed by Singapore in approving the extradition requests of other countries.

For example, Singapore would not surrender a fugitive to a Foreign State or Declared Commonwealth country:

  • If the crime the fugitive is accused of committing is an offence of a political character;
  • If there are reasonable grounds for believing that the:
    • Request for extradition, despite being made in respect of an offence for which the fugitive would be liable to be surrendered, was made for the purpose of punishing the fugitive on account of his race, religion, nationality, or political opinions;
    • The fugitive, if surrendered to the requesting country, may be prejudiced at trial, punished, detained, or restricted in his personal liberty, due to his race, religion, nationality, or political opinions; or
  • If the fugitive has already been acquitted by a competent tribunal in any country, or has been punished by the law in another country for the same act constituting the offence in question.

For extradition to Declared Commonwealth countries and Malaysia, Singapore may also refuse to extradite a fugitive if it considers that it would be “unjust, oppressive or too severe a punishment to surrender the person”, by reason of:

  • The trivial nature of the offence he/she is alleged to have committed;
  • The accusation against the person not having been made in good faith or in the interests of justice; or
  • The passage of time since the alleged offence.

Is Singapore Planning to Increase the Number of Countries it has Extradition Treaties or Arrangements With?

Singapore currently has extradition treaties and arrangements with over 40 countries. According to Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah, Singapore is open to concluding extradition treaties and arrangements with more countries.

However, a “careful and considered approach” would be taken to doing so. For Singapore to sign an extradition treaty with another country, both countries must share a common desire to enter an extradition arrangement.

The Singapore government would consider whether the extradition arrangement would be advantageous for both Singapore and the other country, and whether the legal systems of both countries are compatible, such that an arrangement that rationalises the differences in both countries’ legal systems can be arrived at.

With time, the number of extradition treaties concluded between Singapore and other countries will likely only increase.

One should think twice before engaging in criminal acts in Singapore, and especially if they think they can avoid the legal consequences by fleeing overseas. It is not that easy to escape the long arm of the law.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Police Investigation Process in Singapore
  2. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  3. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  4. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  5. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  6. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  7. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  8. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  9. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  10. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  11. Is Lying to the Police or Authorities an Offence in Singapore?
  12. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  13. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  14. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
Bail
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Prosecution
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Compounding or Composition of Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  2. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  3. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  4. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  5. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  6. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  2. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  3. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  4. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  5. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  6. Criminal Records in Singapore
  7. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  8. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  2. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  3. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  4. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  5. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  6. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  7. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  8. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  2. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  2. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  3. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  4. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  5. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  6. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  7. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  8. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  9. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  2. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  3. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  4. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  5. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  6. Is it illegal to visit prostitutes in Singapore?
  7. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  8. Gambling Legally (In Public or Online) in Singapore
  9. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Cybercrime
  1. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  2. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  3. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  4. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  2. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  3. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  4. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  5. Dishonest assistance and knowing receipt - The case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Is it illegal to feed stray animals in Singapore?
  2. Singapore Animal Abuse Offences, Penalties & How to Report
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore: Police Permits and the Public Order Act
  2. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  3. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  4. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  5. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
  2. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  3. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore