Jail for two men over ruse involving work passes for foreigners

The Ministry of Manpower building in Havelock Road. Undischarged bankrupt Chia Puay Yeoh was jailed for trying to profit by making illegal use of Singapore's tight labour market.
The Ministry of Manpower building in Havelock Road. Undischarged bankrupt Chia Puay Yeoh was jailed for trying to profit by making illegal use of Singapore's tight labour market.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An undischarged bankrupt tried to make illegal use of Singapore's tight labour market to make a quick buck.

First, he got companies belonging to his friends to obtain work permits for 32 foreigners. But instead of working for his friends' companies, these foreigners were sent to work for food stall operators in coffee shops and hawker centres, even though these are not allowed to employ foreigners.

Chia Puay Yeoh, the mastermind, then took money from the operators for providing them the foreign workers.

According to court documents, one of the operators gave Chia $1,000 for every foreign worker whose permit was obtained through this method.

She also agreed to pay Chia the levies for each foreign worker.

The 55-year-old man was sentenced on Thursday (April 25) to 25 months' jail and a fine of $15,000. He was also ordered to pay $54,490 as a penalty.

Chia pleaded guilty to 16 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Another 21 charges under the same Act were considered during sentencing.

One of his friends, Guay Boon Chwee, 49, who had allowed his company to be used in the ruse, was sentenced to a year's jail and ordered to pay a penalty of $7,000. He admitted to three charges under the Act.


The court heard that Chia asked Guay to register a company some time before Jan 1, 2014.

In their court documents, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutors A. M. Mohamed Riasudeen and Low Shi Hou stated: "The accused explained to Boon Chwee that the company would be used to sell its work permit quotas to other companies and businesses that needed them.

"The accused explained to Boon Chwee that work permits would be obtained for foreigners under the company that Boon Chwee registered but that they would not be employed by that company. Instead, they would be employed by a different employer."

Chia also promised to pay Guay $1,000 every month for allowing him to use the company.

Guay agreed to be part of the plan and became the registered director of a firm called Hong Kong Street Holding from Jan 1, 2014.

The court heard that a woman identified as Catherine Low Suk Sien, 32, wanted to run her own business selling roast ducks the following month. She then rented a stall in Bedok South Road and another in Lorong 25A Geylang.

The MOM prosecutors said: "However, Catherine did not have any foreign worker quota to employ foreigners. Catherine then got to know that the accused would be able to apply work permits for foreigners that she wanted.

"The agreement between the accused and Catherine was that the accused would apply for work permits for the foreigners that Catherine wanted... for a fee of $1,000 per foreign worker and that Catherine would have to pay the foreign worker levies every month."

Low later managed to employ four foreigners after they were issued work permits under Hong Kong Street Holding. She had been dealt with in court earlier after admitting to her offences.

The court heard that Chia committed similar offences by using two other firms including Home Eatery. The case involving its director, Lim Bee Eng, 54, is still pending.

Chia is now out on bail of $30,000 while Guay's bail was set at $15,000. They were ordered to surrender themselves at the State Courts on May 23 to begin serving their sentences.

Correction note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct amount that Chia was fined. We are sorry for the error.