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Suppose a Canadian citizen is accused of committing various acts in Singapore which are punished with a fine (littering, selling gum and hacking into wifi). The Canadian is currently residing in Cape Town, South Africa, but might want to return to Canada in the future.

What could the Singapore authorities do to collect the fine from that person?

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    I think you want to look at the extradition treaties in effect between Singapore and South Africa, and between Singapore and Canada. Mark may also want to consider what other countries he might want to travel to in the future. Another thing to look at would be the statute of limitations applying to those crimes, if any. Questions asking for legal advice in specific cases are off-topic here, however, so you may want to reword the question in hypothetical terms.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 15:17
  • @phoog I fictionalized the question.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 15:40
  • There is a related issue to the extradition one which is that if the fine is reduced to a civil judgment, with the foreign judgment be recognized in South Africa or any other place the judgment debtor has property. My guess is that most countries would not recognize such a judgment, but it isn't an easy or obvious question.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 20:19
  • it is important for us all to remember that Singapore has a plethora of laws that other countries might find strange. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 12:44

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Short Answer

Singapore probably cannot enforce this fine against property or income that it cannot reach domestically.

Long Answer

Normally cross jurisdictional efforts to enforce criminal laws are handled by extradition treaties, such as any in effect between Singapore and South Africa, or between Singapore and Canada. But, extradition treaties almost never allow extradition for a petty offense punishably only by a fine.

If the Canadian had property or assets or income with a locality in Singapore that it could reach directly by domestic means, that property or income could be seized to pay the fine.

There is a related issue to the extradition one, which is that if the fine is reduced to a civil judgment in Singapore (I assume that it could), and if it was, if the foreign judgment from Singapore could be enforced in South Africa or any other place the judgment debtor has property or income.

To do this, the Singapore government would have to go to a court of South Africa or some other country as the case might be, file a civil action and ask the court to recognize the judgment. In the case of judgments for breach of contract (e.g. an unpaid promissory note) with a private party this would be routine.

But, many states do not recognize foreign tort judgments unless proved up from scratch on the merits in the forum court, and fewer states recognize foreign criminal judgments for fines or penalties and similarly few states recognize foreign judgments for tax debts.

It is more likely than not that neither South Africa nor Canada nor most other countries would allow a foreign judgment for a criminal fine to be enforced in their courts, and foreign judgments for money damages cannot be enforced directly abroad.

Also, often, different procedures apply and different limitations apply when a foreign government seeks to enforce a claim for a money judgment against a private individual abroad.

So, it is not impossible that this could be done, but it would be more expense and trouble than Singapore would be likely to take, and it would come down to the South African rules for recognition of foreign money judgments. And, it is ultimately more likely than not that if push came to shove that the judgment could not be enforced by Singapore in South Africa.

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