Extradition Amendment Bill – Speech by Dennis Tan

Mr Speaker, I support the attempt to modernize our extradition regime through the Extradition Amendment Bill. I support the streamlining of provisions on extradition requests for declared Commonwealth countries and other non-Commonwealth foreign states into a single framework and also the enhancement of the review procedures for extradition proceedings.

Threshold approach

Mr Speaker, I also welcome the introduction of the threshold approach for determining the extradition offences which is a major change to the existing list approach. Instead of having to come within specific offences in a list under the existing approach, an offence will now be extraditable under the new threshold approach in this amendment bill, if it attracts a punishment of 2 or more years of imprisonment, subject to a list of excluded offences. This approach will make for easier applicability and also bring us in line with countries like the UK, Australia, Canada and Malaysia.

Excluded list providing for restrictions for surrender  

The bill expands on the restrictions on surrender; in other words, the bill expands on the list of excluded offences or circumstances which preclude extradition. This modernizes our approach in this respect adding to the circumstances seen in many extradition treaties.

Mr Speaker, I have a clarification on the prohibition in the situation of a request for extradition for prosecution of offences under military law. Do I understand correctly that the prohibition would apply as long as the fugitive is charged for actions which if it had happened in Singapore, would constitute an offence under our SAF Act and any subsidiary legislation? 

And so it would not extend to offences which although under the requesting country’s military laws, the acts leading to the offences may not come within our SAF Act offences but under another statute e.g. like our Enlistment Act offences?

Fugitive can consent to surrender  

Mr Speaker, I welcome the new provisions under this bill allowing a fugitive to consent to extradition. I agree that this may save state resources in otherwise having to proceed with a more lengthy extradition proceeding. However, I would like to seek clarification from the minister whether a consent by a fugitive will obviate the need for the magistrate hearing the case to still examine and ensure that, prima facie,the proposed extradition comes within the requirements of the Extradition Act, regardless of and independent of the reasons or circumstances for him choosing to consent.

Clarification on the new requirements on search and seizure under Clause 15

I would like to seek clarifications from the minister whether the new requirements on search and seizure under Clause 15 which provide for seizure of any thing in the possession or control of a fugitive that may be material as evidence will cover proceeds of fraud or offences relating to fraud, corruption or graft.

The new record of the case mechanism

The bill also introduces a record of the case mechanism. This is supposed to simplify existing requirements and procedure for the admission of evidence to support an application for extradition. Such a record of the case summarises the evidence presented by a requesting state or is to be certified by a judicial or prosecuting authority.

While it is supposed to simplify, and while I note that the bill does provide for the court retaining discretion in determining the weight to be given to the evidence admitted by way of the record of the case, I would like to ask what are the safeguards against abuses or inadequacies e.g where there are inaccuracies, deliberate or otherwise, and for whatever reasons.

Clarification on Clause 16(8)(c)

Mr Speaker, I next have a point of clarification on Clause 16(8)(c). This clause provides that pursuant to sub clauses 8(a) to (c), the Magistrate is to commit the person to await the warrant of the minister for the surrender but otherwise, subject to section 17, is to order that the person be released. May I know in what circumstances should the Magistrate order that the person be released?

Expected numbers of people

Mr Speaker, before I close, I would like to ask the minister, given the changes to our extradition laws under this Bill and including the provision allowing consent by fugitives, does the Government expect that the amended law will result in an increased number of people being now eligible for extradition for offences committed in their home countries in the past.

I would also like to ask on a related matter, whether, following the extradition treaty with Indonesia, the Government expects to handle a spike in the number of fugitives being extradited and if so, whether it is making plans to handle such increase in volume.

Mr Speaker, notwithstanding my questions and clarifications, I support the Bill.