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Singapore released a citizen from detention more than a year after he pleaded guilty in a U.S. court of spying for Beijing with the city state’s government saying the threat he posed as a foreign agent has now been “effectively neutralized.”

Dickson Yeo was arrested in Singapore in December last year and later detained under security laws for acting as a paid agent of a foreign state, the government said on Tuesday. He was released after investigations determined that he wasn’t able to obtain or pass on any classified information from Singapore to his foreign handlers.

“The threat that Yeo poses as a foreign agent is assessed to be effectively neutralized. As such, he does not pose a security threat that warrants continued detention,” according to a statement from the Internal Security Department, which comes under Singapore’s Home Ministry.

Yeo’s release comes two months after the city passed a contentious law preventing foreign entities or individuals from influencing its politics. The new legislation gives Home Ministry officials the authority to order social media platforms like Facebook and Internet service providers to disclose information behind harmful content they suspect may be carried out by foreign actors or entities.

In the case of Yeo, the department didn’t name the foreign state, although the former consultant had admitted to providing information to Chinese intelligence and knowingly recruiting others in the U.S. to do the same. He was sentenced to 14 months in prison by a U.S. federal court in Oct. 2020 and later deported back to Singapore.

Singapore’s investigations largely echoed the American findings without any reference to China in the statement. The department found that Yeo also approached several individuals in Singapore who he thought would have privileged information on certain issues.

Yeo set up a company in Singapore and placed employment advertisements on social networking sites to recruit for his foreign handlers, the department said. He also applied for sensitive government positions to “enrich his reports with privileged policy insights and classified information,” although he didn’t secure those jobs, the ISD added.

“Yeo’s case demonstrates how the threat has become more pronounced with the prevalence of social media, which has made it easier for foreign intelligence services to talent-spot, groom and cultivate potential agents, even from abroad,” the ISD said.

While the ISD didn’t identify anyone Yeo had approached in Singapore, it said there were retired or serving civil servants in other countries and individuals in the private sector with access to sensitive information who were targeted by foreign intelligence services via social networking sites.


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