Extortion

Qn 1 : What defines extortion ?

Ans The definition for extortion is found in the Penal Code
Section 383 of the Penal Code, extortion is defined as:
(a) intentionally putting a person in fear of injury to himself or another; and
(b) thereby dishonestly inducing that person so put in fear to deliver to any person any
property or valuable security etc.

Section 390(3) of the Penal Code reads as follows:

“Extortion is “robbery” if the offender, at the time of committing the extortion, is in the presence of the person put in fear, and commits the extortion by putting that person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint to that person, or to some other person, and, by so putting fear, induces the person so put in fear then and there to deliver up the thing extorted”.

Following from the above, we can refer to several decisions:

(1) In the High Court in Public Prosecutor v Tham Chien Tin [1992] 3 SLR(R) 807; [1992] SGHC 309. (at [4]) The respondent was charged with committing an offence of extortion under s 384 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) (“the Code”) by putting the victim in fear of injury by telling the victim the consequences of employing foreign workers without work permits, thereby inducing the victim to deliver $50,000 to the respondent. The judge then cited Section 383 of the Code which defines the offence of extortion. One requirement is that someone must have been put in fear of injury.

(2) In the Military Court of Appeal in CPL Lim Puay and Others v The State [1974] SGMCA 3 (at [1]) the judge stated in his judgement that “before extortion can become robbery, the victim must be induced to deliver the thing which is extorted from him at the very place where he has been threatened.”

Qn 2: What are some examples of extortion?

Ans: We can refer to the examples:

(1) We can refer to the district court in Tan Sung Moh Francis v Public Prosecutor [2002] SGDC 292 (at [15] and [16]), where the 18-year-old accused, had extorted “protection money” from the shop proprietors of makeshift handphone accessories stalls on five separate occasion in all.

(2) Another case, In the Singapore Court of Appeal in Lee Choh Pet and others v Public Prosecutor [1971-1973] SLR(R) 299; [1972] SGCA 2, The three appellants kidnapped one Ong, killed him, and dumped his body. After killing Ong, the appellants commenced negotiations with Ong’s father and obtained a ransom on the promise that Ong would be released.

Question 3: What is the common classification of extortion?

Ans: There are 5 classification of extortion:

    1. Putting person in fear of harm in order to commit extortion
      • Section 385: Whoever, in order to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of any harm to that person or to any other person, in body, mind, reputation or property, whether such harm is to be caused legally or illegally, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 5 years and with caning.
    2. Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt
      • Section 386: Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to ny other, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 10 years and with caning.
    3. Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt in order to commit extortion
      • Section 387: Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt in order to commit extortion Whoever, in order to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to any other, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 7 years and with caning.
    4. Extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death, or imprisonment, etc.
      • Section 388: Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of an accusation against that person or any other, of having committed, or attempted to commit, an offence punishable with death, or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, or of having attempted to induce any other person to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine or to caning.
    5. Putting person in fear of accusation of offence, in order to commit extortion
      • Section 389: Whoever, in order to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of an accusation against that person or any other, of having committed, or attempted to commit, an offence punishable with death, or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine or to caning.

Qn 4: What is the difference between blackmailing and extortion?

Ans: There is no difference between “blackmailing” and “extortion”. Pursuant to, the decision in the High Court in SH Cogent Logistics Pte Ltd and another v Singapore Agro Agricultural
Pte Ltd and others
[2014] 4 SLR 1208; [2014] SGHC 203 (at [72] & [75])

“The Defendants wanted to be compensated for not making things difficult for the Plaintiffs. The Defendants were, in substance, engaging in commercial blackmail or extortion, or were
attempting to do so.”

Qn 5: Can emotional manipulation be considered as extortion?

Ans: As long as the emotional manipulation invokes fear to the victim leading him to deliver his property or valuables, extortion has been committed and punishable under the Penal Code.

This was illustrated in a case where a man posing as a woman, full-time national serviceman Ramlan Abu advertised sexual services online and used his victims’ naked photographs to extort a total of $6,000 from them.

Ramlan sent the victim a Facebook post with photos showing the victim’s genitals and face, and
said that if the victim did not transfer $90 to him, he would not take down the Facebook post.
Fearing that the post could harm his reputation, the victim acceded to the request.

(Link https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/man-advertised-sexual-services-online-as-a-woman-and-used-victims-nude-photos)

Qn 6: What should we do if someone tries to extort money from you?

Ans: Pursuant to the recent police advisory: “If you wish to provide any information related to such crimes, Please call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. If you require urgent Police assistance, please dial ‘999’.”

(Link https://www.police.gov.sg/media-room/news/20200622_others_police_advisory_on_cyber_extortion_scams)

Qn 7: What are the effects of extortion to the victim ?

Ans: In cases of extortion, victims can feel stress, ashamed and fear of their reputation.

This was demonstrated in the aforementioned case of Ramlan Abu. In which, the victims fear
that the post could harm his reputation.

Qn 8: What is the punishment by law if one is caught with extortion?

Ans:

    1. Punishment for extortion
      • Section 384: Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment
        for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 7 years and with
        caning.
    2. Putting person in fear of harm in order to commit extortion
      • Section 385: Whoever, in order to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of any harm to that person or to any other person, in body, mind, reputation or property, whether such harm is to be caused legally or illegally, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 5 years and with caning.
    3. Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt
      • Section 386: Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to any other, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 10 years and with caning.
    4. Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt in order to commit extortion
      • Section 387: Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt in order to commit extortion Whoever, in order to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to any other, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 7 years and with caning.
    5. Extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death, or imprisonment, etc
      • Section 388: Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of an accusation against that person or any other, of having committed, or attempted to commit, an offence punishable with death, or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, or of having attempted to induce any other person to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine or to caning.
    6. Putting person in fear of accusation of offence, in order to commit extortion
      • Section 389: Whoever, in order to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of an accusation against that person or any other, of having committed, or attempted to commit, an offence punishable with death, or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine or to caning.
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