Twelve Cupcakes co-founder Jaime Teo admits failing to prevent firm from underpaying foreign staff

Entertainment artiste Jaime Teo founded Twelve Cupcakes in 2011 with her then husband, former radio DJ Daniel Ong. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Entertainment artiste Jaime Teo Chai-lin, 43, pleaded guilty in a district court on Thursday (Feb 4) to offences involving underpaid foreign staff of Twelve Cupcakes, a homegrown confectionery chain which she co-founded.

The former model admitted that she had been neglectful.

Teo had founded the firm in 2011 with her then-husband, former radio DJ Daniel Ong Ming Yu, 45.

The court heard that the arrears in salary totalling $98,900 from the years that the company was under their ownership remain outstanding to date.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty to 10 counts of failing to prevent Twelve Cupcakes from underpaying the workers - offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Fourteen other charges will be considered when she is sentenced on Feb 25.

Teo and Ong sold the firm to Kolkata-based company Dhunseri Group for $2.5 million in 2016.

Defence lawyer Sunil Sudheesan told District Judge Adam Nakhoda on Thursday that when Teo was a director of Twelve Cupcakes, she dealt with its product development and marketing.

Mr Sudheesan stressed that his client did not deal with the firm's human resource, administration, operation and business development matters.

Remote video URL

He also said that Teo was also not involved in discussions on employment details.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Maximilian Chew, however, said that Teo and Ong jointly decided to employ foreign workers in 2012.

Seven of them - four customer service executives, two sales executives and a pastry chef - were underpaid between 2013 and 2016.

For instance, the pastry chef, who was supposed to receive a monthly salary of $2,300 in mid 2014, received $1,600 instead.

The worker continued collecting lower monthly salaries from then to mid 2016. The other six foreigners also received less money than they were supposed to.

Separately, Twelve Cupcakes, under its current owner, was fined $119,500 on Jan 12 for underpaying seven of its foreign employees, including one worker who received only about half the wages at times.

The company was convicted on Dec 10 last year of 15 counts of underpaying the employees in 2017 and 2018.

Ong was also handed 24 charges under the Act last year and his case has been adjourned to Feb 16.

For each charge under the Act, an offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.