SINGAPORE - The mastermind behind a labour scam was jailed for five years and fined $144,000 on Thursday (May 11) for obtaining work passes for 46 men - all Chinese nationals - using shell companies that were not in operation.
After a 14-day trial that started in October last year, a district court found Uber driver Chew Sin Jit, now 51, guilty of 46 counts of being part of a conspiracy to illegally obtain the passes.
He committed the offences between May and August 2013 by making use of two shell companies known as NCK Construction and All Rounder Builders.
According to court documents, he worked with Toh Gim Por, 44, and Mr Sim Oon Peng, 38, to obtain work passes for 26 of the men.
Chew and Mr Poh Ah Ho, 29, committed the offence together to obtain the passes for the remaining 20.
During the trial, Toh, who was the director of NCK Construction, testified in court that Chew hatched the plot in May 2013.
Toh had told Chew that he wanted to withdraw from the directorship of the firm.
But Chew then proposed that he recruit others and register them as company directors. These directors would be paid a lump sum of up to $25,000.
In her closing submissions, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutor Joanne Wee said they would also be given about $1,000 monthly and between $500 and $1,000 for every work pass application received.
She added: "(Their role) was to sign on applications for work passes in their capacity as directors of the companies before the applications are submitted to the MOM."
Toh then roped in Mr Sim as an NCK Construction director. Toh also recruited Mr Poh, who became All Rounder Builders' director.
According to Ms Wee, Toh testified in court that the purpose of the two firms was to "make money".
However, the closing submissions did not mention how this was done.
Ms Wee said Mr Sim testified that he had never seen any other Singaporeans or foreign workers in the office premises when he was a director there.
She added: "(Mr Sim) testified that the only reason he was required to report to the office every day was to create an impression that the company was in operation. This fact was also corroborated by (Mr Poh)."
Pleading for a lighter sentence, Chew, who was unrepresented, told the court on Thursday that he wished to appeal. But he did not mention if he wanted to appeal against the conviction, the sentence or both.
He was offered a bail amount of $30,000.
Toh, who pleaded guilty on July 21 last year to five of the 46 charges against him, was jailed for three years and four months, and fined $15,000.
Responding to queries from the Straits Times, MOM said Mr Sim and Mr Poh have not been charged in court.
It added that the prosecution is currently deciding on the course of action after the conclusion of Chew's case.
The 46 Chinese nationals have been sent home.
For each count of engaging in a conspiracy to illegally obtain a work pass, Chew could have been jailed between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000.