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MP Zainal Sapari giving award to GD Group founder Ven Chin

F&B group founded by award winning entrepreneur, caught for deceiving MOM

Last month, it was reported that GD Group, a food and beverage company specialized in selling Penang food, had deceived the Manpower Ministry (MOM) into issuing Employment Pass to 20 of its foreign employees, when they did not meet the requirements.

Between February 2013 and July 2015, GD Group falsely declared salary amounts of between $4,000 and $4,800 for its 20 foreign employees to meet the salary requirement for Employment Pass (EP), while in actual fact these foreigner workers were only paid between $1,500 and $2,200. To be considered for EP, foreigners must earn a minimum of $3,600 with acceptable tertiary qualifications. The 20 foreign workers did not meet any of these criteria. In other words, the company was cheating the Manpower Ministry.

MOM said the company falsely declared the salaries in order to circumvent foreign worker quota rules by hiring foreigners on EPs, but paying them less than the declared salaries in the work pass applications. Presently, there is no quota for foreign EP holders. The company was fined $94,500 for making the false declarations in its work pass applications. The ministry has also barred the company from hiring foreign employees, it said.

This is not the first incident of such offence. Many companies try to cheat by over-declaring salaries for their foreign workers so as to obtain EPs for them to work here. To cover their tracks, the companies would credit the said salaries into their foreign workers’ account but would later make them pay back the excess in cash.

GD Group’s founder came from Malaysia

It turns out that GD Group’s founder and executive director is Ven Chin, who came from Malaysia. Mr Chin has won awards in Singapore:

Naturally, after garnering the awards, the media went to interview Mr Chin. In one interview after getting the Enterprise Award, he said, “Achieving Outstanding Performance taught me how to achieve outstanding results by focusing on people, processes and measurements.”

In another interview, he revealed that he was born and educated in Malaysian but decided to spend most of his working life in Singapore. After spending some years in a consulting firm, it became clear to him that a good and viable starting point to start a business was in the food and beverage industry.

“The barriers to entry were considerably low for a beginner, I did not need a huge capital outlay to start a business in this industry. The cash flow output from F&B businesses was typically high, it was a scalable business, and most importantly, I felt that there was always a demand for good food,” he said.

So, he left his consulting job to first become a restaurant manager at Fish & Co so as to gain experience in industry. He said, “I came in for a reason, to learn so that I could start my own business, that’s the main objective.” After a year at the restaurant, he joined Polar Puffs & Cakes, to learn more about the F&B business.

He decided to offer Penang food to start his F&B business. He said, “When I first came here, I missed home food a lot, I realised there was not much Penang food or Malaysian food at that point in time.” Also, with around a quarter of those living in Singapore having ties to Malaysia, he decided that Penang hawker fare would be in strong demand. The first restaurant was named Gurney Drive. It opened at Jubilee Square in 2010. At the moment, the company has several restaurants serving various Penang food fares.

When asked what his favourite city in Asia is for business, he said, “Hands down – Singapore. There is rule of law. The system is fair, transparent and the environment is pro-business. There are also lots of investors here.”

As for relaxation, he said he would go to Thailand. “My all time favourite – Bangkok. The food and massages are great and so reasonably priced!” he said.

In any case, his company was caught trying to create more jobs for foreigners by deceiving the Manpower Ministry into issuing more EPs for his foreign workers.