34 weeks' jail for manager who broke hiring laws

In two Selegie Centre units, more than 40 foreign workers were found living in overcrowded and poorly maintained premises. Unacceptable accommodation was also found at a house in Opal Crescent as well as at a shophouse in Tanjong Katong Road.
In two Selegie Centre units, more than 40 foreign workers were found living in overcrowded and poorly maintained premises. Unacceptable accommodation was also found at a house in Opal Crescent as well as at a shophouse in Tanjong Katong Road.ST FILE PHOTO

A manager ordered foreign workers to work without valid work passes, threatened to repatriate them, falsely declared their salaries and crammed many of them into four squalid locations, a court heard.

Yesterday, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutors sought at least a year's sentence for Indian national Nallusamy Narayanan, who is a Singapore permanent resident, for exploiting the workers' emotional and financial dependencies on him, and providing them with unacceptable accommodation.

A stiff sentence was required to send an unambiguous message to the 41-year-old and like-minded persons who make a mockery of the employment laws in Singapore, said MOM prosecutor Paul Cheong Yuen. Citing aggravating factors, he added that Nallusamy, who had pleaded guilty to 25 out of 68 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, acted out of pure greed.

He said the offences were hard to detect and egregious in nature, and affected several victims.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong sentenced Nallusamy to 34 weeks' jail. Nallusamy, who was represented by Mr S.K. Kumar, was allowed to defer the sentence until March 17 to settle his personal affairs.

The court heard on Thursday that Nallusamy was a manager for five corporate entities in 2014, when he gave his consent for Harri Construction & Maintenance to employ four foreign workers at several construction sites without valid work passes.

He made a false declaration that the monthly salaries of two other electrical technicians, employed by Harri Construction and Harri Engineering, were $2,300 each when they were paid only $900.

The two S Pass holders yielded to the lower pay offer after Nallusamy threatened to cancel their passes and send them home.

They had borrowed or spent substantial amounts of resources to work here, and did not wish to risk losing their jobs.

The court heard that a key criterion for the granting of an Employment Pass or S Pass is that the applicant must meet the minimum salary requirement - at least $3,300 and $2,200 respectively.

Between August and November 2014, MOM inspectors were investigating possible contraventions of employment laws by the five entities when they found unacceptable accommodation for workers at four locations - a house in Opal Crescent, a shophouse in Tanjong Katong Road and two units in Selegie Centre in Selegie Road. One of the apartments in Selegie Centre housed 25 foreign workers, and the other, 18.

The authorities were alerted to the unsatisfactory housing conditions by the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), which conducted two surprise visits in November 2014, said Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of MWC.

Elena Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline '34 weeks' jail for manager who broke hiring laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe