Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conducted an island-wide operation, revealing the modus operandi of a syndicate which was involved in bringing foreign workers for illegal employment.
The operation which was conducted from 26 to 27 July 2016 lasted for more than 48 hours and took place at several locations including offices, residential units and construction sites.
MOM arrested 44 persons during the last enforcement operation, in which 6 of them were members of the syndicate and 38 of them were foreign workers. Among them, a Chinese national who was suspected to be the mastermind was also arrested. Work permit cards, name lists of workers and Singapore Pass tokens were seized.
MOM said that the syndicate would typically set up shell company and hire fall guys as directors. The fall guys usually do not have any knowledge of what the company does.
The company would then misuse their Singpass account to make fraudulent work pass applications. They obtain quota to employ foreign workers using "phantom workers".
The employers are usually released to find their own employment as there is no actual employment.
For the foreign workers, to obtain work pass to stay in the country, they usually conspire with the syndicate and pay large amount of money of kickbacks to be part of the scam. Then they would find a job in Singapore illegally.
In 2015, MOM had conducted four major operations against such syndicates and managed to dismantle syndicates which had set up four companies and brought at least 300 illegal workers into the country. 12 syndicate members were arrested during the operations.
The impact of such illegal business operations is that the Singaporeans lose their job opportunities via the hiring of the illegal manpower who require lower wages. Employers who abide by the rules would be disadvantaged due to the uneven playing field in hiring legal and local employees.
"More importantly, this prevents our economy from making critical adjustment towards productivity-driven growth, since employers could circumvent our foreign manpower policy framework and continue to have access to cheap foreign manpower," MOM wrote.
Commenting on the operations, Mr Kevin Teoh, Divisional Director of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said: “MOM takes a serious view of bringing in foreign workers without a job and allowing these foreign workers to find their own employment. We will take offenders to task, and will continue our efforts to detect and take down syndicates that perpetuate such offences."
"Employers and main contractors must do their due diligence to ensure that all foreign workers at their worksites have valid work passes. It is illegal to hire foreign workers who are released by their official employers to find their own work,” he added.
The Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) was amended in November 2012. The Act gave MOM greater enforcement powers to deal with egregious offences such as illegal labour importation.
Persons convicted for the illegal labour importation face imprisonment between six months and two years, and a fine up to $6,000 per charge. For severe cases, the offender is also liable to be caned.
Employers who hire foreign workers seeking illegal employment face a fine of between $5,000 and $30,000 or up to 12 months’ imprisonment or to both. They may also be barred from employing foreign workers. Main contractors who are found to have illegal workers at their worksites are liable to be fined up to $15,000 or imprisoned up to 12 months’ or both. They will also be barred from employing foreign workers.
MOM advise employers to check the legitimacy of their labour supply contractors. No foreign workers without valid Work Pass should be allowed to enter or work at their place.
Employers and main contractors who come across released workers should take down their particulars (including the name, work permit number, and employer stated on the work permit card), and report them immediately to MOM.
If the official employers ask foreign workers with valid Work Pass to find a job on their own, the case should be immediately reported to MOM for it to investigate the matter.
Members of the public who know of persons or employers who contravene the EFMA should report the matter to MOM at Tel: (65) 6438 5122 or email [email protected]. All information will be kept strictly confidential.