Dormitory operator’s illegal profits should be confiscated in addition to $300,000 fine

By Philip Ang

I refer to Channel News Asia’s “Dormitory operator fined S$300,000 for housing foreign workers in overcrowded conditions”. K T Mesdorm was fined $300,000 for exceeding its housing limit of 4500 foreign workers at the Blue Stars Dormitory by 542 residents.

Somehow, the fine seems totally disproportionate to the offence. Hmm.. perhaps the judge forgot an additional ‘0’?

Assuming Mesdorm charges an average of $300/foreign worker/month, Mesdorm stood to gain an additional income of about $162,000 every month. (542 X $300)

Bear in mind that Blue Stars Dormitory (BSD) managed by Mesdorm is a ‘one-stop integrated complex… that includes supermarket, parks, remittance centre…”. Mesdorm therefore also profited from additional supermarket sales and its remittance business. The total profit from Mesdorm’s offence easily amounted to $200,000 per month.

It is unlikely for Mesdorm to have been caught soon after it exceeded the limit for workers because the authorities have proven to be lax in enforcement, frequently relying on public feedback. Also, not forgetting the hygiene at BSD did not deteriorate into such conditions (see photos below) overnight. Assuming it was over a 6 month period, Mesdorm would have profited an additional $1,200,000 from the offence.

KT Mesdorm is part of the MES Group. For a multi-million dollar business, its website is pretty interesting and with the people that is behind the group.**

MES Group claims to be the “industry leader in providing world-class workforce residences”. From the photos below, this appears to be a joke at best.

World class or cockroach class?
(Photo from Ministry of Manpower)

The government should send a clear message that it will not tolerate companies which flout common-sense laws. It should confiscate all Mesdorm’s profit from the offence on top of the $300,000 fine. This is also common sense.

By allowing Mesdorm to profit from the offence, it’s not merely a slap on Mesdorm’s wrist but an insult to the justice system. Shouldn’t prosecution appeal?

** Under ‘management profile’, there are strangely only 2 names, ie Chairman Sidek Saniff and CEO Mohamed Abdul Jaleel. MES group is a multi-million dollar business with interests in commercial transportation, commercial warehousing, property, manpower and ‘value services’, not a neighbourhood provision shop. Why is there only two persons in management?

It is interesting to note that Sidek Saniff is a former Senior Minister of state and PAP MP in Aljunied GRC from 1997 to 2001.

CEO Jaleel is a grassroots leader conferred the PBM in 2005. Jaleel was featured in the Straits Times in 2010, (also 2013 and 2015) where he disclosed six-figure sums given to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, The President’s Challenge 2010 and four community self-help groups.

The MES Group has also received awards from the PA and Ministry of Defence, sponsored campaigns by the Traffic Police in 2008 and 2009, a major donor for a Mediacorp charity drive in 2009, logistic supporter for 2014 and 2015 NDP, etc.

The company website has since been removed but its content can be still retrieved via cache.