Holding maid's papers but really boss' girlfriend

MOM officers uncover three cases of bogus maids in relationships with their 'employers'

The Filipina had all the right papers - a valid passport and a permit to work in Singapore as a foreign maid.

But when enforcement officers from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) entered the home where she was working, they discovered that she shared a bed with her male employer.

The couple's photographs were around the flat, and their undergarments were hung together to dry in their bedroom.

These red flags indicated that she was no maid, MOM officers told The Sunday Times. After four hours of questioning, the man confessed that the Filipina was his live-in girlfriend, not his maid.

He had brought her in as a maid on a two-year work permit so that she could stay in Singapore.

The couple is one of four similar bogus cases uncovered by the ministry on May 28, during its largest operation to date against foreigners living here under the guise of being maids.

Officers from the ministry's employment standards branch, acting on information received, checked 41 homes.

Of the four cases uncovered, three involved women in relationships with the men who passed as their employers. One woman worked in her employer's company as a clerk, which is not allowed under permits for maids.

Investigations into another 24 similar cases are ongoing, including six involving maids who were not living with their employers - a requirement under the work permit conditions for foreign maids.

Employers in 13 of the 41 homes inspected were found to be genuine.

Mr Michael Tan, a team leader in the employment standards branch, said that the number of cases of bogus maids has held steady in recent years but nabbing them remains a priority. "We want to send a strong deterrent message that we are watching and you will be caught," he said.

Enforcement efforts have led to the convictions of 21 employers and 20 bogus maids between 2011 and last year.

The Sunday Times understands that most of the women are from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Mr Tan said some of the errant employers wanted the women to be waitresses in pubs and restaurants, or even office clerks, but could not get work permits. Others just wanted their foreign girlfriends here.

Most of the culprits applied for a foreign maid work permit because it is relatively easy to meet the requirements.

The woman had to be at least 23 years old, pass a medical test and attend a one-day mandatory course to learn about living and working in Singapore. But these permit holders are not allowed to marry while here without the approval of the authorities.

MOM's investigators interview the employer, the maid, others living in the home and neighbours, and look out for details such as the living arrangements of the maid.

Investigation officer Jessie Lim said warning bells sounded during the recent raid when one employer told her his maid slept in the bedroom, while he slept on a couch in the living room.

"He said she is a lady so she should have the room," recounted Ms Lim. "That sounded fishy, so I went into the room and saw pictures of them and their underwear was hung together."

Anyone found to have fraudulently submitted false information to illegally obtain a work pass can be punished with a fine of up to $20,000 and/or a jail term of up to 24 months.

The women will also be barred from working in Singapore.

ameltan@sph.com.sg