On Tuesday Jun 15th, the Internal Security Department (ISD) released information on the detention of Singaporean citizen, Dickson Yeo. The 40 year old academic, Yeo, has been in detention since Jan 29th. He is being held on charges of acting as a paid agent for a “foreign state” under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The ISD did not provide further information on the “foreign state”. However, last year Yeo was sentenced to 14 months’ prison in the US for spying for China against the US.
After Yeo completed his prison sentence in the US, he was deported to back home on Dec 30th last year. The ISD immediately arrested Yeo upon his arrival into Singapore. Authorities interviewed Yeo to establish if he had engaged in activities detrimental to Singapore’s security.
On Tuesday, Jun 15th, the department said from 2016 until Yeo’s arrest in the US in 2019, he did carry out intelligence activities against Singapore. Yeo’s assignment was to source information and provide reports on issues of interest to his foreign handlers. This includes providing information relating to Singapore.
The ISD said, “Towards this end, he had approached various individuals in Singapore in an attempt to obtain information for the purpose of writing his reports.”
Front company set up
A front company was also set up by Yeo in Singapore as a cover for his information-gathering activities. Also, the company was a recruitment center for his foreign handlers. Moreover, Yeo also tried to get a job in the Singapore Government, but failed.
Investigations find the evidence
Facts established by ISD’s investigations showed Yeo worked for the intelligence apparatus of a foreign state for monetary gains. Also, he carried out other various tasks given to him by his foreign handlers.
“Yeo admitted to being fully aware that his foreign handlers were working for the intelligence apparatus of the foreign state.”
Investigations are still ongoing, according to the ISD. To allow probes into the full extent of his activities, the continuation of Yeo’s detention is necessary.
On Oct 9th last year, after admitting to operating illegally as a foreign agent, Yeo was jailed in the US.
The length of the prison sentence for such a crime can go up to 10 years. However, Yeo received a relatively light sentence.
Yeo was credited for 11 months jail time already served in prison. A US federal judge said Yeo was released early for two reasons. Firstly, Yeo cooperated with US authorities. The second reason was the threat of contracting the COVID-19 disease in jail, due to the pandemic at that time.
During his plea, Yeo did admit to working for Chinese intelligence. He spotted and assessed Americans with access to “valuable non-public information” between 2015 and 2019.
The Americans included a State Department official, a Pentagon army officer, and a civilian working with the US Air Force. The army officer had experience in Afghanistan, while the civilian was working on the F-35B stealth fighter project.
As much as US$2,000 were paid to these people to write reports for Yeo. He told them that the reports were for clients in Asia. Yeo did not reveal the information was actually for the Chinese government.
Previous intelligence work
According to US investigators, before focusing on the US, Yeo said his previous intelligence work targeted other Asian countries.
On Jul 26th last year, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs carried out investigations into Yeo’s activities. Their investigations did not find Yeo’s activities to be any direct threat to Singapore’s security.
In 2015, Yeo was studying for a PhD at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP). It was there that Yeo was first recruited by Chinese intelligence operatives, according to US court documents. Yeo’s PhD supervisor is Chinese national Huang Jing. Singapore has permanently banned Huang Jing from entering the republic.
After a trip to Beijing to give a presentation on politics, Yeo went on to work for Chinese intelligence operatives.
16th June 2021 23:00
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