Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
It is no secret that Singapore takes a strong stance against terrorism and imposes harsh punishments on any person that supports terrorism.
This was demonstrated in 2016, where 8 radicalised Bangladeshi workers were detained without trial due to their affiliations with the notorious caliphate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 4 were eventually imprisoned for terrorism financing, with ringleader Rahman Mizanur being sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment.
In Singapore, the offence of terrorism financing is governed by the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSFA). This article will discuss the details of this offence, and the consequences of it.
What is Considered Illegal Terrorism Financing?
Before we delve into the different aspects of terrorism financing, it is first necessary to understand what illegal terrorist acts are. Illegal terrorist acts include using/threatening to use or causing/threatening to cause:
- Serious violence against a person, such as shooting a person;
- Serious damage to property, such as setting a house on fire;
- Damage to the environment by releasing harmful substances, toxic chemicals or toxins;
- Disruption to public computer systems or the provision of banking services/public utilities/public transportation.
Terrorism financing refers to the illegal act of supporting these terrorist acts by, for example, transferring money to a terrorist organisation. This is regardless of whether the organisation is based, or the act is committed, in Singapore or overseas.
For example, in 2020, 35-year-old Singaporean Imran Kassim was sentenced in the Singapore court to 33 months’ imprisonment for providing $450 to an individual in Turkey for the publication of ISIS propaganda there. This is even though the propaganda had been published in another country.
Even just attempting to support terrorist acts, or inciting another person to support these acts, counts as a terrorism financing offence.
Terrorism financing is more than just the provision of money
However, the involvement of money is not the only way a person can be found guilty of terrorism financing. According to the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSFA), the other ways a person can be found guilty of terrorism financing include:
- Providing/collecting property that will be used in a terrorist act (section 3 of the TSFA);
- Providing/collecting property and services that will be used to carry out a terrorist attack or that will benefit terrorists (section 4 of the TSFA);
- Using/possessing property that will be used to carry out a terrorist act (section 5 of the TSFA);
- Dealing with any property or entering into financial transactions with/for the benefit of a terrorist (section 6 of the TSFA).
Here, the term “property” refers to any kind of asset, ranging from money, vehicles or buildings to even intangible assets such as a patent or a trademark. “Property” also includes legal documents that show that a person has title to assets such as shares, bonds or bank cheques.
The term “services” refers to any act that could help in carrying out a terrorist act. This includes acts such as opening a bank account for a terrorist, or perhaps helping a terrorist organisation to buy items that they could use in a terrorist attack.
Singapore’s terrorism financing laws also covers overseas acts.
As mentioned above, a person can still be charged in Singapore if he had provided support for terrorism while he was overseas.
Under section 34 of the TSFA, any person who commits or abets an offence under sections 3, 4 or 5 of the TSFA will be deemed to have committed the act in Singapore and thus can be charged accordingly.
As for offences under section 6 of the TSFA, only Singapore citizens who committed the offence overseas shall be dealt with as though they had committed it in Singapore.
Consequences of Financing Terrorist Operations
Criminal conviction and sentencing
Under section 6A of the TSFA, any individual found guilty of financing terrorism can be subjected to imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or to a fine of up to $500,000.
For non-individuals, such as a group or a company, the court could subject them to a fine up to $1 million, or twice the value of the property/financial service that they collected, provided or used to commit the offence.
In 2019, the penalties under section 6A of the TSFA were imposed on a Singaporean for the first time. 35-year-old Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir Sheik Uduman was sentenced to 2.5 years’ imprisonment for donating over $1,000 to a Jamaican preacher who supported the use of violence to establish an Islamic caliphate and also used threatening words to instigate racial hatred.
Seizure or forfeiture of property
In addition to fines and imprisonment terms, the court may also order for the individual’s property to be seized, frozen from use or forfeited to the government.
If the individual breaches the terms of a freezing order issued against his property, he will be guilty of an offence, for which he could be subjected to a fine of up to $50,000 and/or an imprisonment term of up to 5 years.
Preventive detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA)
If a person is suspected to have acted in a way that undermines Singapore’s security, the Minister for Home Affairs may order for him to be detained under the ISA. The ISA allows police officers to detain suspects for up to 48 hours without a warrant.
Then, if the President believes that further detention is necessary for Singapore’s security, section 8 of the ISA allows the person to be detained for further periods of up to 2 years at a time.
In October 2019, 3 Indonesian maids were detained under the ISA for collecting and providing money to third-parties in an effort to support ISIS and its Indonesian affiliate, Jemaah Anshorut Daulah.
Since they have yet to be sentenced at the time of writing, these individuals will continue to be detained until they have been convicted, after which they will have to immediately serve any imprisonment terms imposed on them.
It is possible for persons who flee Singapore to escape charges under the TFSA to be extradited to Singapore under section 33 of the TSFA to face charges.
To learn more, you may read our other article on extradition.
What to Do If You Come Across Terrorist Property, or are Aware of Possible Terrorist Transactions
Under section 8 of the TSFA, every person in Singapore and Singaporean citizens outside of Singapore who either:
- Has possession, custody or control of any property belonging to a terrorist; or
- Has information about any transactions relating to a property belonging to a terrorist,
has a duty to disclose this information to the police.
Section 10 of the TSFA extends this duty to people who have or believe that they have information that could either:
- Prevent another person from committing a terrorism financing offence; or
- Help to secure the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person, in Singapore, for committing, preparing to commit or instigating a terrorism financing offence.
How to disclose
There are several ways to disclose terrorism financing-related information to the police:
- Fill in the online form on the SGSecure website;
- Call 999;
- SMS 71999 if you are unable to talk; or
- Submit the information via the SGSecure mobile app.
Under section 10A of the TSFA, the information you provide generally cannot be used as evidence in any legal proceedings. Witnesses in the proceedings will also not be required to mention your name or answer any question that could lead to your name being revealed.
Penalties for non-disclosure without reasonable excuse
If you fail to comply with the above duties of disclosure, and do not have a reasonable excuse for this failure, you may be subjected to the following penalties:
- For individuals who came across the property/information during the course of their employment/trade/business: a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment term of up to 5 years
- For individuals who came across the property/information in other ways: a fine up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for a term up to 5 years
- For non-individuals: Where a terrorism financing offence was committed, a fine of either $1 million or twice the value of the property/financial transaction (that was the subject of the terrorism financing offence), whichever value is higher, will be imposed. Where no terrorism financing offence was committed, a fine of $1 million will be imposed.
Tipping Off Terrorists About Police Investigations
Note that under section 10B of the TSFA, you can be found guilty of tipping off terrorists about police investigations if you:
- Know or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a police officer is investigating a case under the TSFA; and
- Disclose to any other person information that is likely to prejudice that investigation.
If found guilty, you could be liable for a fine of up to $250,000 and/or to an imprisonment term of up to 5 years.
If you have been charged with terrorism financing, or with the non-disclosure of important information, you may want to discuss your options with a criminal lawyer.
The lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and advise you about whether to plead guilty or claim trial to the charge(s). The lawyer may also be able to help you argue for a shorter jail term and/or lower fine if you are found guilty of any of the offences detailed in this article.
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