SINGAPORE - Eighteen individuals have been arrested for suspected illegal labour importation, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday (Sept 21).
In a statement, the ministry said it mounted a 12-hour-long enforcement operation last Tuesday (Sept 14) as part of an investigation involving a syndicate suspected of bringing foreigners into Singapore on work passes obtained through false declarations.
The operation took place at 22 locations around the island.
MOM said it began its investigations in July upon obtaining information on a foreigner's attempts to acquire a work pass illegally.
Through detailed analyses over a few months, the ministry uncovered a potential syndicate suspected of setting up several shell companies to apply for work passes, even though they had no legitimate business operations.
Such syndicates typically recruit Singapore citizens and permanent residents to receive Central Provident Fund contributions as "phantom local workers" in order to illegally inflate the companies' quota to hire foreigners, said MOM.
Based on the inflated quota, the companies would apply for work passes for the foreigners through false declarations and collect kickbacks from them.
These foreigners would then enter and remain in Singapore via the illegally obtained work passes.
"These practices undermine the integrity of our work pass framework," MOM said in the statement. Investigations are ongoing.
Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), individuals convicted of obtaining work passes for a business that does not exist, is not in operation or does not require the employment of foreigners may face a fine of up to $6,000, a jail term of up to two years, or both, per charge. If convicted of six or more charges, caning will also be administered.
Employers who hire foreigners illegally may be fined up to $30,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both, per charge. Upon conviction, they will be barred from employing foreigners.
Foreigners who undertake employment without a valid work pass may face a fine of up to $20,000, imprisonment of up to two years, or both. Upon conviction, they will be permanently barred from working in Singapore.
Members of the public who are aware of suspicious employment activities, such as companies hiring foreigners without valid work passes or people receiving CPF contributions from unknown companies, or know of people or employers who contravene the EFMA, should report the matter to MOM on 6438-5122 or at mom_fmmd @ mom.gov.sg
All information will be kept strictly confidential.