Fines for construction firm and its two directors over improper housing for their foreign workers

Chen Ming (left) and Shi Baoyi, the Singaporean directors of Genocean Enterprises, pleaded guilty to converting private residential properties into workers' dormitories without planning permission, and that they had housed foreign workers in overcrow
Chen Ming (left) and Shi Baoyi, the Singaporean directors of Genocean Enterprises, pleaded guilty to converting private residential properties into workers' dormitories without planning permission, and that they had housed foreign workers in overcrowded conditions.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Guidelines from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) allow only a maximum of eight people to reside in two adjoining properties in Lorong 14 Geylang.

But the properties were illegally converted into one dormitory without planning permission from the URA. During an inspection on April 13, 2015, a total of 66 foreign workers from construction firm Genocean Enterprises were found to be living there.

Investigators also found 116 beds on the premises.

As a result, the properties were "severely overcrowded with cramped and unsanitary living conditions", said a joint statement by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and URA on Tuesday (April 23).

Genocean Enterprises was fined $60,000 for converting private residential properties into workers' dormitories without planning permission.

Its two Singaporean directors - Shi Baoyi, 48, and Chen Ming, 55 - each pleaded guilty to a similar offence. The two men also admitted that they had housed foreign workers in overcrowded conditions.

Shi had provided inaccurate information as well in the Online Foreign Worker Address Service system, which is used to capture the residential addresses of all work permit holders here, excluding domestic foreign workers.

 
 

He gave false information to the Controller of Work Passes too.

Shi was fined $137,000 while Chen's fine was $60,000. Genocean Enterprises has also been barred from hiring foreign workers.

On Tuesday, District Judge Marvin Bay said: "The occupation of overcrowded and cluttered facilities would lead to attendant hazards, including fire safety and electrocution risks. I have noted the presence of electric plugs and wiring around and on the bed frames.

"It would be difficult to envisage 66 workers being able to evacuate safely through the clutter and potential obstructions caused by the accumulated belongings of these workers."

The statement from MOM and URA also said that in 2016, Shi had agreed to have his firm house another 15 foreign workers in a separate overcrowded property in Geylang Road.

It had also been converted into a dormitory without planning permission from URA.

Under the Planning Act, private residential properties are now subject to an occupancy cap of six unrelated people. Property owners must also ensure their premises are not used for unauthorised purposes like dormitory accommodation.

Under the Act, offenders can be jailed for up to a year and fined a maximum of $200,000.