SINGAPORE - Former S-League player Gaye Alassane, who was part of a global match-fixing syndicate, will not be deprived of his Singapore citizenship after all, as he is assessed to be unlikely to re-offend.
The Mali-born naturalised citizen was served with a Notice of Proposed Deprivation of Citizenship in December last year after he became involved in criminal activities.
The 43-year-old referred his case to a citizenship committee, which recommended to Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam that he exercise his discretion and allow Mr Alassane to keep his citizenship on compassionate grounds.
Giving due consideration to the committee's recommendation, the minister has since decided to give Mr Alassane another chance and "not deprive him of his citizenship for now", said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement on Wednesday (June 27).
This decision is subject to his conduct and behaviour, and if he is found taking part in "any act that is against the public good" again, the minister will not hesitate to recommence proceedings to remove his citizenship, the ministry added.
Mr Alassane, who spent one season with football club Gombak United, was detained without trial in 2013 under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act for about two years. He was subsequently released and placed under police supervision.
Married to a Singaporean, he became a citizen in 2003 through the Family Ties Scheme. At the time his citizenship was approved, there was no information to suggest that he was involved in any criminal activities, said MHA.
But later on, he "became an active and trusted member of an international match-fixing syndicate which was created in and took root in Singapore", MHA revealed on Wednesday.
"He and his syndicate members used Singapore as a hub to conduct major global match-fixing activities," it added.
This involved travelling to different countries to fix football matches, conspiring with syndicate members to do so through the corruption of officials and players. They also drew foreign nationals in Singapore into the syndicate's match-fixing activities, said MHA.
Mr Alassane helped to move bribe monies into the country, and remitted or personally couriered such bribes out of Singapore as well.
"His serious criminal conduct not only undermined the integrity of Singapore's financial system, but also law and order," said MHA. "Witnesses were afraid of testifying against the individual and his syndicate members in open court for fear of reprisal."
Given the extent of his involvement in the syndicate, the Minister of Home Affairs considered depriving him of citizenship and served him with a deprivation notice.
He subsequently referred his case to a Citizenship Committee of Inquiry, which is provided for under the Constitution in such cases. According to the Constitution, this three-member committee must be chaired by a "person qualified to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court".
The minister has to consider the committee's report in making his final decision, although he is not bound by the committee's recommendation.
After conducting an inquiry and considering representations, the committee agreed that there were sufficient grounds to deprive Mr Alassane of his citizenship, but recommended allowing him to retain his citizenship on compassionate grounds.
In making this call, the committee considered mitigating factors such as his strong family roots in Singapore, the service he has rendered to the community, as well as his conduct since his release.
He did not have any adverse record throughout his detention or during police supervision and has not returned to crime since. He also appears close to his children and performs voluntary community service at a mosque.
Singapore Management University Associate Professor of law Eugene Tan noted that depriving someone of citizenship is an extreme measure the law provides for, but also one that is used as a "last resort".
He said the decision in Mr Alassane's case "gives confidence to the process and demonstrates that even though someone may have committed serious criminal offences, the system is also willing to recognise if people are keen and determined to break away from their past".
Prof Tan added that to assure Singaporeans of the due process behind such an application, more light could be shed on the committee and its work.
Under the Constitution, the Government can deprive naturalised Singaporeans of their citizenship for reasons that include showing disloyalty to the country or engaging in criminal activities that threaten public safety, peace or good order.
Singaporeans by birth cannot be deprived of their citizenship for such reasons. But they can be stripped of it if they acquire a foreign passport, as Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. This can also happen if they are 18 or older and stayed abroad for a continuous 10- year period in which they were not, for instance, working for the Government or an international organisation Singapore is a member of.