Parliament: All diplomats screened before boarding flight, says Iswaran to case of diplomat with gold bars

SINGAPORE - All diplomats are screened for security reasons before they are allowed on board an aircraft, just like other travellers, Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran said.

This, he explained in Parliament on Monday, involves the use of metal detectors for checks on persons and X-ray screening for their belongings.

And although the personal baggage of diplomats are generally exempt from inspection under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, these will be inspected if there are serious grounds for believing that he is carrying prohibited or controlled items, such as weapons and drugs.

He was responding to Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, who asked whether the police were aware a diplomat was caught carrying up to 27kg of gold bars in his luggage on a flight out of Changi Airport last month.

Mr Iswaran said police were aware of media reports of the case, where a foreign diplomat - not accredited to Singapore - allegedly attempted to import gold into another country without making the proper customs declarations, after arriving on a flight from Singapore.

Their records indicated that he departed on a flight from Changi Airport, where he was screened before boarding. No security threat items were found on him.

Media reports identified him as North Korean diplomat Son Young Nam, the first secretary of North Korea's Embassy in Bangladesh. He was stopped as he arrived in Dhaka via Singapore and though he was not charged, Bangladesh customs officials called it a "clear case of smuggling".

To Mr Giam's question on whether there was a limit on the amount of gold that could be moved in and out of the country, Mr Iswaran said there is no weight limit on the amount of gold and other precious metals that can be transported in and out of Singapore by travellers.

In line with international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, measures and controls here are focused on the point of sale of such items in Singapore, he said.

All precious stones and metal dealers are required to file a cash transaction report with the Suspicious Transition Reporting Office, the central agency for reports of suspicious transactions, when they sell any precious stone, metal or product to a customer exceeding $20,000. All persons in Singapore must also report any knowledge or reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct which comes to their attention.