SINGAPORE - A manager threatened to cancel the work passes of his foreign employees and repatriate them if they refused to accept his offer of lower basic monthly salaries, a court heard.
The workers had no choice and yielded to Nallusamy Narayanan, 41, as they had borrowed or spent substantial amount of resources to work in Singapore.
Nallusamy, a Singapore permanent resident, had falsely declared the salaries of the foreign workers to circumvent the work pass regimen.
The Indian national had also failed to ensure that 33 workers were given acceptable accommodation at four locations.
On Friday (Feb 24), Nallusamy was given 34 weeks' jail after he had admitted to 25 out of 68 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. He was allowed to defer sentence until March 17.
The court heard he was in charge of all employment and payroll aspects of various companies and sole proprietorships, including Harri Construction & Maintenance, Harri Engineering and Harri Power Electrical Engineering, at the time of the offences in 2014.
Harri Construction continued to employ four foreign workers at various construction worksites even though their work permits had been revoked due to defaults on levy payments.
In the case of two electrical technicians employed by Harri Construction and Harri Engineering, he declared that their monthly basic salary was $2,300 each when their actual pay was $900.
The two S Pass holders unwillingly accepted the lower salary offered as Nallusamy had threatened to cancel their work passes and repatriate them if they refused to accept the lower basic monthly salary.
The workers did not wish to risk losing their employment and return home empty-handed.
A key criterion for the granting of Employment Pass or S Pass is that the applicant must meet the minimum salary requirement - at least $2,200 for S Pass and at least $3,300 for EP holders.
Further investigations showed that Nallusamy had abetted the owner of Harri Power to employ three foreign workers without valid work passes. The trio started to work at worksites before their S-Passes had been issued.
When Ministry of Manpower employment inspectors checked premises rented by the entities, they found 42 foreign workers crammed in a house in Opal Crescent.
Over at a shophouse at Tanjong Katong Road, 25 workers were found sleeping on mats and double-decker beds. The kitchen was converted into a large shower.
Another two units at Selegie Centre were also found to be overcrowded and poorly maintained, accommodating a total of 43 foreign workers.
The prosecution cited several aggravating factors when it pressed for a total sentence of 55 weeks' jail. These included the fact that Nallusamy acted out of pure greed, the difficulty in detection, the need to deter him and like-minded offenders from exploiting the system and the egregious nature of the offences.
Nallusamy's lawyer S. K. Kumar said his client had borrowed more than $700,000 by pawning his jewellery, taking loans from friends and relatives to pay the salaries and levies of the workers to enable the company to stay afloat.
"All this was done to make sure that the workers are not short-changed," he said.