Sylvia Lim asked the burning question on our minds about the David Roach extradition

Namely why Thailand didn't let us have Roach.

By Joshua Lee | March 9, 2018

Remember David Roach, the man who robbed a StanChart bank outlet of $30,000 on July 7, 2016, with nothing more than a piece of paper?

This is what the alleged Standard Chartered bank robber looks like

And remember how he was caught in Thailand, but wasn’t handed over to Singapore, but instead deported back to Canada?

Alleged StanChart bank robber David James Roach arrested in UK after release from Thai prison

You might also recall how as part of UK’s extradition treaty agreement with Singapore, Roach would be handed over to us, but cannot be subjected to caning.

Singapore agreed to the terms if Roach were to be extradited and found guilty.

S’pore agrees not to cane StanChart robbery suspect if extradited from UK & found guilty

What a bummer.

That raised quite a ruckus online. When news broke that Singapore has agreed to withhold the caning, netizens took umbrage that the government was not stepping up to defend its sovereignty, with some comparing it to the caning of Michael Fay in 1994.


In the end, Law Minister K Shanmugam stepped in to say that it was a matter making the choices which benefits us best:

“So then you have a choice: you can either say, ‘Okay I will not give the undertaking’, in which case he will not be extradited and he will go off to lead his life in Canada or wherever else. Or we can say we will give the undertaking not to cane, but he will come back to face all the other punishments if he is convicted.”

That aside, there was still the question: How was it possible that fellow ASEAN member Thailand could let Roach go despite knowing that Singapore wanted him?

This was the question posed by Worker’s Party’s Sylvia Lim to Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah during the Committee of Supply debate on March 2, 2018. 

Lim noted that ASEAN has a model ASEAN extradition treaty being worked on. This would function as a template for member states to enter bilateral arrangements.

Also, there was no ASEAN-wide recognition of arrest warrants, which means that Thailand did not need to send Roach back to member state Singapore just because we have an arrest warrant on him.

Lim pointed out that in our move to better integrate ASEAN, this peculiar incident doesn’t seem justified.

Singapore has arrangements with 40 declared Commonwealth countries and bilateral agreements with United States of America, Germany, and Hong Kong – a measly 43 countries out of nearly 200 countries. Lim’s next question was whether 43/200 countries is adequate coverage.

In her reply, Indranee prefaced by affirming her ministry’s willingness to forge extradition treaties as a way of combatting transnational crime.

She went on to agree that there isn’t an ASEAN wide recognition of arrest warrants.

However, there are special extradition arrangements with Malaysia and Brunei, because all three countries’ legal systems are based on the common law legal system.

Further all ASEAN member states are also members of Interpol which gives them another platform for transnational law enforcement.

Indranee then went on to explain why we have so few extradition treaties. In summary:

  1. Extradition treaty is difficult to set up because it is difficult to cater to all the different legal systems in the world.
  2. Extradition is resource-intensive and will strain government resources

The end.

Top images via YouTube and Mothership

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