Cross-border and multi-agency efforts needed to tackle crimes like scams: Ex-police chief

Conference chairman Khoo Boon Hui highlighted the importance of law enforcement agencies working together to tackle the scam scourge. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Cross-border and multi-agency cooperation is a vital tool in battling the growing scam menace.

In his welcome address on the first day of Milipol Asia-Pacific 2022, a biennial regional security conference, Mr Khoo Boon Hui, who is the conference chairman, highlighted the importance of law enforcement agencies around the world working together to tackle the scam scourge.

Mr Khoo, former commissioner of the Singapore Police Force and former Interpol president, said: "Once there's an online (scam), chances are, you only catch the minions, people who are runners, who lend their accounts to these syndicates.

"But the money gets transferred within minutes, or even seconds, to the (scammers). So dealing with transnational crimes requires cross-border and multi-agency efforts."

Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who was a guest of honour at the event, said scams have been on the rise in recent years and that they continue to be a challenge for law enforcement agencies, including in Singapore.

He noted that around 24,000 scam cases were reported in the Republic last year - a 53 per cent increase from 2020.

In the police's crime figures for 2021 that were released in February, the police said victims in Singapore lost at least $633.3 million to scams last year. The sum lost is almost 2.5 times the $268.4 million stolen by scammers in 2020.

The police also noted that at least 90 per cent of scams in Singapore originate from overseas.

Associate Professor Faishal said: "Most scams are perpetrated across national boundaries by crime syndicates. They are well resourced and adept at using technology to cover their tracks."

He added that criminal proceeds are promptly transferred across borders, making the recovery of losses very difficult.

"No country can win this fight alone. Law enforcement agencies need to work together to detect and disrupt these syndicates, so that collectively, we are more effective in protecting our people from scams," said Prof Faishal.

Noting that Singapore had 250 days last year that were free from three confrontational crimes - robberies, burglaries and snatch theft - Mr Khoo said: "Law enforcement is no longer confined to dealing with physical crimes.

"Unfortunately, (scammers) are very active in hitting you where it hurts most - your wallet. And (they are) reaching you through your mobile phones, through your computers, through the games that your children play, and you feel very helpless."

Delegates at the Milipol Asia- Pacific 2022 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre on May 18, 2022. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

He also noted that the scope and threat of criminal activity have changed.

"Despite the movement and travel restrictions imposed to control the spread of the (Covid-19) virus, criminal groups have adapted very quickly, perhaps even faster than the law enforcement agencies.

"We have seen in the past few years the rise of cyber-enabled crimes against governments, against operations and individuals, exploiting our increasingly digitalised world," he added.

During the three-day conference which ends on Friday, keynote speakers will highlight issues facing organisations and agencies, including evolving threats of terrorism, drug-trafficking, cybercrime and challenges to national security.

Over 150 companies from 24 countries will also showcase at an exhibition new security technologies such as intelligent drones, innovative surveillance and tactical gear.

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