WHITE COLLAR CRIME CASES INVESTIGATED AND RESOLVED BY POLICE LAND DIVISIONS

At MPS, from time to time, I have met residents who have fallen victim to white collar crimes causing significant loss to them. One issue that they often flag for consideration, especially when their cases are undertaken by investigators from Police Land Divisions, is the length of time needed to complete investigation. They perceive that at the specialist unit level, eg Commercial Affairs Department, things move much faster than at the divisional levels. I therefore filed a PQ to find out whether white collar crime investigators in Police Land Divisions are sufficiently resourced to deal with the “retail” cases. My PQ and Minister for Home Affairs’ response may be accessed below.

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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs for each of the past five years (a) how many white collar crime cases are handled in total by the Police Land Divisions for investigation; (b) what is the corresponding total subject matter value of these cases; © what are the solution and clearance rates respectively for these crimes; and (d) what steps have been identified to enhance the white collar crime investigative capabilities at the Police Land Divisions’ levels.

Mr K Shanmugam: The Police do not separately track statistics of crimes handled by the Land Divisions vis-à-vis the specialised units. In fact, criminal investigations often require close collaboration between the Land Divisions and the specialised units.

The Member asked for the number of white-collar crimes. For this reply, we have focused on traditional financial crime, which includes cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and fraud. We have not included cybercrime, such as hacking offences, and scams.

From 2017 to 2021, the Police investigated about 18,700 cases of white-collar crime, with a total subject matter value of about $4.49 billion.

The time taken to solve cases depends on many factors, many of which are case-specific. These include the availability of evidence and witnesses, the number of transactions involved, and the complexity of the funds flow, as well as the need to obtain evidence from foreign law enforcement agencies. As cases differ significantly from one another, it is not meaningful to publish an aggregate solution or clearance rate.

We would like to point out that there is a limit to what Police can do, if the perpetrators are based overseas. Furthermore, with greater digitalization and advancements in technology, such crimes have increased in numbers and complexity, and are straining investigative resources. Police have taken steps to try to mitigate these challenges.

First, re-organisation to optimise use of scarce resources. In March 2021, to consolidate expertise, a new Financial Investigation Division was formed to specialise in investigation of complex fraud cases, such as insurance fraud, trade financing fraud, and counterfeit currencies.

Second, by employing a suite of technological solutions to augment our manpower resources. For example, the Police implemented the Digital Forensic Kiosk in 2020, which enables all investigation officers, whether in the Land Divisions or the specialised units, to more easily retrieve and analyse information from digital devices such as mobile phones and portable storage media.

Third, they have built strong partnerships with other Government agencies as well as private sector stakeholders such as banks, digital platforms and telecommunications companies. For example, the Police work with financial institutions to swiftly freeze bank accounts suspected to be involved in crime, and to identify money mule accounts. The Police also work closely with foreign counterparts and INTERPOL to investigate cases with a foreign nexus.

Fourth, investigation officers performing white-collar crime investigations are sent for specialised training to improve capabilities to address increasingly complex cases. For example, officers attend courses conducted by the Home Team School of Criminal Investigation to deepen their understanding of white-collar crime investigation, as well as the interpretation and application of relevant laws. The Police also conduct financial investigation workshops at the intermediate level for investigation officers, which involve sharing of best practices and case studies.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.