Agency under probe says it is not cheating workers

Mr Kalai denied the jobs offered did not exist, but could not show any application form or contract for the jobs purportedly offered.
Mr Kalai denied the jobs offered did not exist, but could not show any application form or contract for the jobs purportedly offered.

Workers had paid him thousands for jobs in Canada they said did not materialise; MOM and police investigating

The boss of an employment agency being investigated by the authorities has responded to defend his business. "We are not cheating (anyone)," said Mr Kalai Chelvan, managing director of Amaicre.

Two weeks ago, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said it was investigating the agency for possible breaches of licensing conditions.

The police are also investigating reports made by four Bangladeshi foreign workers who paid the agency $11,000 in total between 2013 and 2014 for jobs in Canada. The jobs did not materialise.

Mr Kalai said the workers got impatient and made the police reports without talking to him. "It takes one to two years to get a job in Canada," said the 52-year-old Singapore permanent resident.

While job seekers will get a refund if their applications for jobs in Canada are unsuccessful, they must pay $1,500 in consultation fees if they cannot wait and choose to terminate the applications, said Mr Kalai.

He also denied allegations that the jobs offered were non-existent. "They are still being processed," he said. But he was unable to show The Straits Times any application form or contract for the jobs purportedly offered. Instead, he said to contact his Canadian agent.

His agent Norman Douglas, who runs Can-X Immigration & Consultant, replied in an e-mail that he offered farm jobs to Mr Kalai in 2014, but said the Canadian government had changed its policy and delayed the approvals.

Of the four workers who went to the police, Mr Kalai said he has returned $500 to a worker who paid $1,000. The other three workers who paid $3,000 each will get a $2,000 refund each from June, in four monthly $500 instalments.

The Small Claims Court ordered the settlements after the workers took Mr Kalai to court.

The Malaysian businessman, who has been working in Singapore for more than 20 years, said he started Amacre Associates as a maid agency in 2013.

MOM records showed that the agency found work here for 67 maids and 27 foreign workers in the past one year. Of the six demerit points that MOM slapped on him, he said it occurred in 2013 over incorrect paperwork.

Mr Kalai claimed to have helped two Filipinos find work in Canada in 2014 and 2015, as a construction worker and a caregiver, but was unable to put The Straits Times in touch with them. They have changed their contact numbers, he said.

The agency changed its name to Amaicre in December last year, but Mr Kalai said it had nothing to do with the police reports. "It was because of fengshui."

It moved out of Lucky Plaza last month after the lease of its main and temporary offices ended. When ST visited him at his new Far East Plaza office last week, there was no signboard or electricity supply.

Company records showed that the agency, which has a paid-up capital of $100,000, is owned by Mr Kalai and Filipino Venus Emperado Apas in equal shares.

The 38-year-old businesswoman has been working in Singapore for 11 years. "I am just an investor... I got nothing to do with this," she said of her role in the firm.

Meanwhile, Mr Kalai said he will stop taking new requests for job placements overseas until his backlog of 15 cases are settled in the next six months.

"All the publicity has affected me," he said. "You need to help me clear my name."

Both the police and MOM said investigations are ongoing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Agency under probe says it is not cheating workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe