July 16, 2018
| On 5 months ago

A Day In The Life Of A Private Investigator: What It’s Like To Be A Real-Life “Spy” In Singapore

By Weijie Tan

Many of us grew up watching spy movies such as the James Bond 007 series and the Mission Impossible movies. Some of us would even have thought that becoming a spy would be a dream job during our childhood days.

Although most of us may have given up on the idea as a mere fantasy, being a private investigator can turn that dream into reality. I went down to SG Investigators Pte Ltd to catch a glimpse of a day in the life of a private investigator in Singapore.

Located on Level 4 of People’s Park Centre amongst the small law firms and offices, this hallway looked a lot like the corridors you’d see in one-room HDBs. Its location is probably a means to stay low-key in a business as sensitive as this.

I linked up with David Kang, the Founder of SG Investigators Pte Ltd. He’s quite tanned and stoic with very firm gestures. He actually reminded me of the enciks we see back in the army camp. Working in this line seems to require a certain level of fitness.

Private Investigator David

He recalled having to trail someone and once the subject entered the lift, he ran up to the 15th floor using the stairs. “It’s really no joke having to run this high. Those were really the old days, today I’ll get my younger private investigators (PIs) to do so,” David explained.

With fitness being the core criteria, what else does it take to be a PI? You definitely need courage, or “big balls”, to put it in a cruder way.

David’s antique devices used through his years as a PI

We were trailing this woman in Jakarta with a private taxi driver. Her car was fully tinted, but we still followed it. Arriving at the biggest mall in Jakarta, she alighted with two bodyguards. When she went to a shop, one bodyguard was by her side while the other stood outside.

It all went smoothly until we were in the carpark and one of the bodyguards walked in our direction. He knocked on our window and confronted us. “Why have you been following us for the entire day?” The taxi driver denied doing so, and said that we would leave. The guard added, “when I come back, I don’t want to see you nearby.”

As we left, the back door of the subject’s car was left open, and then we understood why they were alerted to our presence. The car was modified, with the back seats of the car facing the rear view. Of course, they knew we were following. The taxi driver told us that the bodyguard confronting us had a gun with him. And if they went on a frenzy, BANG! They would kill us. But in the worst case, money settles everything.

It seems like going to a foreign country as a PI may leave you lying in a ditch if you lack street smarts. Thankfully back here in Singapore, David managed to evade an ambush by three ah bengs. During the confrontation, he saw through their facade — they were actually afraid that he was from the CID. He managed to use that fear to his advantage, and avoided escalating the situation.

The work of a PI doesn’t just include danger, but also voyeurism when it comes to people who lead promiscuous lives.

This camera allows David to zoom in more than 50x

Out of all his cases, a whopping 80% of them are matrimonial-related. There are cases where he has to catch spouses being in close contact with a third party, making out, or entering and leaving motels. The evidence that he gathers will be used in the court for divorce cases.

David complained about his 36-hour stakeout with this man who went for two rounds at the hotel with the same lady. Laughing, he commented, “sometimes they have more stamina than I do!”

While there are stories and cases that delve into scandal and peril, there are also funny moments. David shared with me an amusing story, full of schadenfreude. This was a case where he had to spy on employees who weren’t doing their jobs properly.

In the sales department, it’s common for some to pick jobs with a low commission and high basic income. The client suspected two of his employees of not doing any sales. As it turned out, one of them spent her day going out with her boyfriend and watching movies.

The other recalcitrant employee went to play mahjong with some friends. His “friends” were actually the rest of the sales team! When the client found out from David’s reports that the entire team was skiving, all he could say was “oh sh*t, oh sh*t“.

David explains how he hides his camera inconspicuously

David explained that this job isn’t meant for everyone, because it requires patience and definitely a passion for the work. One of his daughters picked up a love for this line of work while helping him out, and she volunteers for some of his jobs while still studying in university!

The stories you’d experience while working in this line are enough to make anyone wonder. It sounds like a rather thrilling job, honestly. Since it’s become a common trend for the younger generation to prefer more unorthodox jobs, if you’re a thrill-seeker, maybe you could give this a shot.

SG Investigators Pte Ltd: People’s Park Centre, 101 Upper Cross Street #04-03, Singapore 058357 | Tel: +65 6536 7800 | Website

Weijie Tan

Wei Jie is a hipster wannabe. He thinks that people who go to museums just to take photos for Instagram are really pretentious and mainstream; thus scavenging for the alternative places/ vintage clothing is his thing.