Construction firm boss jailed and fined for collecting kickbacks, assaulting MOM officer

SINGAPORE - A construction firm's managing director was sentenced to three weeks' jail and fined $169,000 in the State Courts on Monday, for receiving kickbacks from foreign workers and assaulting a Manpower Ministry officer, said the ministry in a statement on Tuesday. He was also barred from hiring foreign workers.

Singapore permanent resident Sheng Jianzhong, 40, had received $85,380 in kickbacks as managing director of Sheng Yu Construction Builders from September 2012 to January 2013. This came from 24 foreign workers who each had to pay Sheng $7,200 to be hired.

After one worker complained in February 2013, MOM raided the construction site at Jalan Legundi near Sembawang Road. During the raid, when an MOM investigation officer tried to collect evidence, Sheng grabbed his left arm and thumb to stop him. The officer was injured.

Sheng had 38 charges of receiving kickbacks, one charge of obstruction of justice and one charge of use of criminal force on a civil servant against him. The prosecution proceeded with 13 charges of receiving kickbacks and one charge of use of criminal force to a civil servant. The remainder were taken into consideration.

Separately, in March, 45-year-old Singaporean Geng Shuzhen was convicted on three charges of receiving kickbacks, with eighteen other charges taken into consideration during sentencing. She was fined $15,000, with six weeks' jail if she defaults.

In 2014, 15 employers were convicted of receiving kickbacks, compared to 17 in 2013. The highest fine meted out by the Court since November 2012 has been $36,000.

Said Mr Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division: "We take a serious view of employers who collect kickbacks as it further increases the debt burden of foreign workers, and is detrimental to their well-being.

"We will continue to clamp down on such practices as in the case of Sheng Jianzhong."

He added: "With respect to using criminal force on a civil servant, perpetrators can expect the force of the law to be applied."

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, most money collected from foreign workers will be deemed as employment kickbacks, unless the reasons why they are collected can be properly accounted for. For each charge, those found guilty can be jailed for up to two years, fined up to $30,000, or both.