On 6 December 2016, a 53-year-old Singaporean, Mui Chee Mun (Mui), was sentenced in the State Courts to 36 months' imprisonment for fraudulently obtaining work passes for 37 foreign workers for a company that was not in operation, and to 24 weeks' imprisonment for collecting kickbacks from them to prevent their work passes from being cancelled. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also permanently barred him from employing foreign workers.

Mui, who was the mastermind of the employment scam, was charged with a total of 74 counts1 under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA). He pleaded guilty to the charges on 18 August 2016.

Case Details

Investigations revealed that Mui managed a shell company, Blue Apple Design Pte Ltd, for the sole purpose of bringing in foreign workers with no intention of providing work for them. Mui used the details of the company's registered director without the latter's knowledge to apply for work passes. Mui signed the application forms in the name of the registered director, declaring that the foreign workers would be employed by the company as construction workers and electricians. Mui also made CPF contributions to local "phantom workers", fabricated employment contracts and salary vouchers to avoid detection and to give the impression that he was operating a genuine company.

Based on the false information, Mui managed to fraudulently obtained work passes for 37 foreign workers between May 2014 and February 2015. He subsequently collected monthly kickbacks from each foreign worker to ensure their work passes were not cancelled, and then released them to seek their own employment illegally. Mui made more than $46,000 in kickbacks from the foreign workers.

Accomplice Convicted, Jailed 18 weeks

Mui collected the kickbacks through a 42-year-old Bangladeshi released worker, Reza Salim (Reza), whom Mui employed to assist him with the collection. Reza also recommended friends and relatives to Mui to enter Singapore as released workers. He was paid a monthly salary of $1,200 for the services provided.

Reza was charged with 31 counts of abetting Mui to collect kickbacks. He pleaded guilty to 11 charges, with the remaining charges taken into consideration, and was sentenced on 22 July 2016 to 18 weeks' imprisonment. He has been permanently barred from working in Singapore.

Eradicating the Illegal Importation of Labour

Commenting on the case, Mr Kandhavel Periyasamy, Director of Employment Inspectorate at MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division, said, "The accused had devised an elaborate scam to cheat MOM to approve work passes for work that was non-existent, and subsequently profited by collecting kickbacks from the foreign workers. These are serious offences as they severely undermine our work pass controls. We will continue to investigate and take strong enforcement action against such individuals."

Advisory from MOM

Under the EFMA, it is an offence to obtain work passes for foreign employees for a business that does not exist and with no intention of providing any work for the employees. Offenders will be sentenced to imprisonment for six months or more, and face a fine of up to $6,000 for each offence. If convicted for six or more charges, caning will also be imposed.

It is an offence under the EFMA to demand or receive from a foreign employee monies or other benefits as a condition or financial guarantee for his employment. Offenders can be imprisoned for up to two years, or fined up to $30,000, or both. Employers are also prohibited from recovering employment-related costs such as levies and other fees from foreign employees.

Members of the public who know of persons or employers who contravene the EFMA should report the matter to MOM at 6438 5122 or e-mail mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg. All information will be kept strictly confidential.

Source: Ministry of Manpower, Singapore