SINGAPORE is one of the worst abusers of intellectual property rights in Asia - contradicting its self-projected image as that of a hi-tech city - the powerful Business Software Alliance (BSA) has claimed. The United States-based lobbyists complained that Singapore was becoming a global mail-order distribution centre for the illegal software, and that Singapore authorities apparently lacked the will to pursue the increasingly sophisticated pirates. The BSA barrage followed raids on two retail outlets and an apartment in Singapore last week, which resulted in the seizure of hundreds of illegal diskettes and manuals - including counterfeit versions of DOS 6.0 diskettes and manuals, even before this product has been officially launched in Singapore. The cache seized in the exercise was worth about HK$2.35 million. Ms Alix Parlour, the BSA's Asia/Pacific vice-president, said pirated software that had originated in Singapore had also been seized at Hongkong's Kai Tak airport. ''The fact that illegal MS-DOS 6.0 products are available in Singapore from these criminal syndicates, ahead of their official launch, clearly shows the extent of the illegal counterfeit trade there,'' Ms Parlour said. ''Singapore has one of the worst records of counterfeiting in the region. ''It is a tremendous irony to me that Singapore is supposed to be moving towards this ideal of IT 2000 [a Government growth initiative] while, at the bottom end, there is this low-grade pirating going on. ''To me, it just doesn't make sense; it seems like the authorities just don't want to even acknowledge that the problem exists.'' Among the BSA's chief complaints is that Singapore has had ''tremendous success'' controlling audio and video piracy, but has appeared unwilling to apply the same policing enthusiasm to the computer software industry. Also uncovered in last week's raids were counterfeit copies of other popular personal computer programmes, such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Notes, WordPerfect and Ami Pro. Ms Parlour said that BSA's own investigations - undertaken because of a lack of action from Singapore Government authorities - had indicated that Singapore was a major distribution centre for the region. She said the group suspected that the illegal diskettes were copied in Malaysia, while the fake manuals were produced in Indonesia. Singapore was then being used as a transshipment point for international mail-order distribution. The BSA strongly criticised the Singapore Government's inaction, even against large-scale pirate software syndicates, in a submission to the US Trade Representative under the Special 301 provision in the 1988 US Trade Act. Last week's raids followed private investigations by Microsoft (a BSA member) and resulted in actions against Rubisoft and Alsoft Computers Manufacturing. Industry sources have tried to explain the reluctance to fight the island's pirates, saying Singapore was retaliating for its loss of face when the US, in its 1992 trade estimate report, took it to task for failing to combat intellectual property rights infringements. This year's report, released late last month, raised the issue again, saying that Singapore had not acted on a US request to prosecute software pirates and set up an enforcement unit to implement its copyright law. Explanations given included the lingering resentment harboured by Singapore over the loss of trade privileges under the US Generalised System of Preferences at the end of 1988. Industry sources said they thought Singapore was becoming a distribution centre for pirated software because there was a big printer in Indonesia, and Singapore was well positioned to be a distribution base. ''This must be good business. Those two companies were raided last year but they changed their names this year,'' a source said. Ms Parlour said the pirated software seized last week was of very low-grade quality which would be easily recognisable by genuine software buyers.