Jurisdiction - Singapore
Reports and Analysis
Singapore – Mutual Assistance In Criminal Matters Amendment Bill.

19 June, 2014

 

 

Introduction


The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill was introduced for First Reading in Parliament on 29 May 2014.


The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act (“MACMA”) was enacted in 2000 to regulate the provision and obtaining of various forms of international assistance in criminal matters by Singapore.


The Proposed Changes


The following are the areas where substantial changes have been made by the Bill:


1. Removal Of The Requirement For A Certificate When Proving A Foreign Drug Offence


Under the MACMA as it now stands, there is a requirement under Section 2(1) for a law of a foreign country to be evidenced by a certificate issued by or on behalf of the government of that country in order to be regarded as a ‘corresponding drug law’ for the purposes of a request for assistance.


The proposal is to remove the certificate requirement and allow for other forms of evidence to be adduced to prove the foreign drug offence. The concept of a foreign drug offence will also be slightly extended to cover offences under the law of only part of a foreign country (such as a state in a federation).


2. New Foreign Tax Evasion Offence


A new definition of ‘foreign tax evasion offence’ will be inserted into Section 2(1) of the MACMA. A ‘foreign tax evasion offence’ will be defined as an offence against the national law of a foreign country that consists of the doing of any of certain specified acts wilfully with intent to evade, or to assist any other person to evade, any tax of that country.
This is intended to broaden the scope of the MACMA in recognition that the tax regime in Singapore differs from that in other jurisdictions.


3. Removal Of General Requirement Of Dual Criminality


Currently, Section 20(1)(f) of the MACMA imposes a requirement of dual criminality on any request by a foreign country for assistance in a criminal matter. The request must relate to the investigation, prosecution or punishment of a person in respect of any conduct that, if it had occurred in Singapore, would have constituted an offence under Singapore law.


The proposal is to delete this section and with it the general requirement of dual criminality under the MACMA. The proposed new Section 20(3) will instead restrict the requirement of dual criminality to requests for assistance relating to the obtaining of evidence, enforcement of foreign confiscation orders as well as search and seizure.


The limited requirement of dual criminality under the new Section 20(3) will not apply to requests for assistance that relate to the newly defined ‘foreign tax evasion offence’ mentioned above.


4. Updating Of Definitions


The current definitions of ‘financial institution’, ‘Singapore confiscation order’ and ‘foreign offence’ in Section 2(1) of the MACMA will be replaced.

 

The first two changes are to reflect the updated definitions of the same terms in the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap. 186) and Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (Cap. 65A) (“CDSA”) respectively.


The new definition of ‘foreign offence’ will cover any offence against the law of a foreign country. This expanded definition will enable Singapore to provide certain forms of assistance in respect of any foreign offence.


5. Separate Schedule Of Offences For The MACMA


Currently, the definitions of ‘drug trafficking offence’ and ‘serious offence’ in Section 2(1) of the MACMA make reference to offences that are set out in the First and Second Schedules of the CDSA respectively. This restricts the list of offences in respect of which assistance is available under the MACMA to those which are already listed in the CDSA.


The proposal is to replace the references to the schedules of the CDSA with references to new schedules of offences which will be inserted into the MACMA.


As such, two new schedules relating to drug dealing and serious offences respectively will also be inserted into the MACMA. This will enable different lists of offences to be maintained for the MACMA and the CDSA.


Conclusion


The proposed changes in the Bill are designed to sharpen the definitions of certain terms within the Act to bring them in line with amendments that have recently been made to other Acts such as the CDSA.


By expanding the range of scenarios under which Singapore can comply with a request for assistance, the Bill will enable Singapore to become more facilitative in providing mutual legal assistance and become a stronger partner for international cooperation to fight cross-border crime.


Shook Lin Bok LLP

 

For further information, please contact:
 
Eric Chan, Partner, Shook Lin & Bok
eric.chan@shooklin.com
 

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