MOM busts syndicate for illegally importing labour

Ministry of Manpower officers arrested one of the suspected syndicate members (right) and found items used by the syndicate during their search of his vehicle (above). Residential units, office premises and workers' quarters were inspected as part of
Ministry of Manpower officers arrested one of the suspected syndicate members (above) and found items used by the syndicate during their search of his vehicle. Residential units, office premises and workers' quarters were inspected as part of the 18-hour operation.PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER
Ministry of Manpower officers arrested one of the suspected syndicate members (right) and found items used by the syndicate during their search of his vehicle (above). Residential units, office premises and workers' quarters were inspected as part of
Ministry of Manpower officers arrested one of the suspected syndicate members and found items used by the syndicate during their search of his vehicle (above). Residential units, office premises and workers' quarters were inspected as part of the 18-hour operation.PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

3 suspected syndicate members, 10 foreign workers arrested during 18-hour operation

A syndicate involved in setting up shell companies to bring in foreign workers for illegal employment was taken down on Wednesday by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The ministry mounted a simultaneous operation at several locations, including Jalan Besar, Little India and Toa Payoh. Residential units, office premises and workers' quarters were inspected as part of the 18-hour operation.

Thirteen people - three suspected syndicate members and 10 foreign workers - were arrested, MOM said in a statement yesterday. Identification cards, mobile phones, name lists of workers, bank transaction receipts, SingPass tokens and employment documents were among the items seized.

Investigations are ongoing.

Syndicates that illegally bring in foreign workers would typically set up shell companies, or firms with no actual business operations. They would then hire fall guys as directors of these firms, and misuse their SingPass accounts to make false work pass applications.

These syndicates obtain the quota to employ foreign workers using "phantom local workers", and profit from collecting large amounts of kickbacks from the foreign workers, MOM said in the statement. As there is no actual employment, these foreign workers are subsequently released to find their own jobs, and they end up working illegally across all industrial sectors.

These syndicates also put the well-being of the foreign workers at risk, said the ministry, as shell companies do not offer basic care and protection such as medical care, insurance coverage and accommodation.

In the past two years, MOM has conducted six major operations against syndicates involved in illegal labour importation. These syndicates set up nine shell firms and brought in some 700 workers.

A total of 19 syndicate members were arrested in the operations.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, those convicted of illegal labour importation can be jailed for between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000 per charge. For convictions of six or more charges, caning will also be imposed.

Employers who hire foreign workers seeking illegal employment can be fined between $5,000 and $30,000, or jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

They may also be barred from employing foreign workers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'MOM busts syndicate for illegally importing labour'. Print Edition | Subscribe