Company fined $52,000 for inflating monthly salaries of foreign workers in work pass applications

Mr Subramanian Thiruppathi Raj, director of 7Star Restaurant.
Mr Subramanian Thiruppathi Raj, director of 7Star Restaurant.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - To secure work passes for its foreign employees, a company inflated their monthly salaries in its applications to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

This was to fulfil the minimum salary requirements for the work passes to be granted.

In one case, the company declared that a cook would be paid $3,150, when in fact, his salary was less than half that amount.

The company, 7Star Restaurant, was fined $52,000 on Thursday (Aug 20) after pleading guilty to four charges relating to falsely declaring the salaries of four employees to MOM.

Eight other charges, involving the salaries of other employees, were taken into consideration during sentencing by District Judge Adam Nakhoda.

At the time of the offences, which took place between 2013 and 2017, the company operated a restaurant outlet named 7 Star Restaurant Indian/Malay Food in Upper Serangoon Road. The Straits Times understands that the restaurant has closed.

According to court documents, the company overstated the salaries of two workers when applying for their S Passes. It did so for one employee in June 2013 and for another in February 2017.

Mid-level skilled workers are eligible for an S Pass, if they meet certain requirements such as a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,400 a month. 

7Star Restaurant declared in its applications that the workers were earning $3,000 and $3,150 a month respectively, when they were in fact getting less than half that amount.

The company also inflated the monthly salaries of two other employees in its applications, in September 2014 and March 2015 respectively, to renew their work passes.

It had stated that one worker - an S Pass holder - was earning $2,900 while the other worker, who was holding an Employment Pass, had a salary of $4,500. 

Instead, both of them were earning $1,400 a month.

Employment Pass holders who are young graduates must earn at least $3,900 a month, among other things. Older and more experienced workers must fulfil a higher minimum salary requirement.

MOM prosecutor Erdiana Hazlina said on Thursday that the company never had the intention to pay its workers the declared salaries.

Its director, Mr Subramanian Thiruppathi Raj, also knew that the minimum salary requirement was a "key criterion" in granting the work passes, she added.

While he paid them through cheques reflecting the false salaries every month, the workers had to return the difference between the false amounts and their actual salaries in cash to him.

Mr Raj also instructed them to sign on salary vouchers reflecting the false salaries, which were intended to give the authorities the impression that the workers were paid such amounts.

In mitigation on Thursday, the company's lawyer, Mr Mohamed Niroze Idroos, said that the company has already ceased operations and has no funds to pay any fine imposed by the court.

District Judge Nakhoda eventually ordered the company to pay $13,000 upfront, with the rest of the fine to be paid in instalments over three months.

For each of its offences, 7Star Restaurant could have been fined up to $20,000.