Fine for manager who wrongfully confined 3 foreign workers for 42 days amid Covid-19 outbreak

Shaun Pang Tong Heng saw the men as "troublemakers".
Shaun Pang Tong Heng saw the men as "troublemakers".ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The general manager of a company wrongfully confined three foreign workers in a room for 42 days over May and June amid the Covid-19 outbreak, with one stretch running 39 days straight.

The workers from integrated mechanical engineering service provider Ad-Meth Mech Field were locked up in a 3.4m by 4.3m room, which is slightly larger than a bedroom in a Housing Board flat.

The room is located on the company's premises in Tuas.

Construction workers Pandiyan Jayakanthan, 23, and Ganesan Pandi, 24, and construction supervisor Muthuraj Thangaraj, 39, had access to only one bathroom.

The Indian nationals were locked up from May 12 to 15, and from May 19 to June 26. Court documents did not state if they were confined round the clock.

On Thursday (Sept 17), their former boss - Singaporean Shaun Pang Tong Heng, 41 - was fined $9,000 after he pleaded guilty to three counts of wrongful confinement.

Three other similar charges involving the men were considered during sentencing.

The court heard that Pang felt that the trio were "troublemakers". He found out on May 12 that Mr Pandiyan and Mr Ganesan had been bothering another worker in the firm.

Pang was also separately aware that Mr Muthuraj was under police investigation for an unrelated matter.

The men were initially let out on May 15 after they complained that the confined area was warm and had mosquitoes.

They were then moved to another room, which had three beds and air-conditioning. It was also not locked.

 
 
 

But on May 18, Pang viewed a video clip that showed Mr Pandiyan and Mr Ganesan leaving the company's premises.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu said: "The accused deemed that the victims were unremorseful and thus decided to confine the three victims back into the confined area."

Pang then asked one of the firm's supervisors to lock the men up. Pang also told the trio that he could call the police on them if they did not comply.

The trio were then held from May 19 to June 26. They had their mobile phones with them and were given three meals daily.

The room they were confined in had three beds, fans, a water cooler and Wi-Fi connection. They also had access to a bathroom.

On June 25, one of the men used his mobile phone to alert the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and a group of its officers arrived at the scene the next day.

The MOM officers then instructed Pang to release the trio immediately.

Mr Md Noor E Adnaan, the defence lawyer who represented Pang, told District Judge Prem Raj on Thursday that his client is remorseful.

The lawyer said that during the outbreak, Mr Pandiyan and Mr Ganesan had left their place of residence to buy alcohol despite being housed near a Covid-19 cluster.

 

Mr Adnaan added that Mr Pandiyan also drove a company lorry even though he had no licence to do so. As for Mr Muthuraj, the lawyer said he was previously caught for drink driving.

DPP Hu, however, replied that there was no excuse for Pang to take matters into his own hands.

Before handing out the sentence, the judge said that Pang should have notified the police about the workers.

For each count of wrongful confinement, an offender can be jailed for up to three years and fined.