Labour scam mastermind jailed 5 years, fined $144k

He deceived China nationals with promise of jobs that never existed

He was the mastermind behind a labour scam which deceived 46 Chinese nationals into coming to Singapore for legitimate work that never materialised or even existed in the first place.

When they arrived in Singapore, they were told to look for their own employment to sustain themselves.

After a 14-day trial, Uber driver Chew Sin Jit, now 51, was convicted of 46 counts of being part of a conspiracy to illegally obtain work passes for foreign workers by using shell companies that were not in operation.

Describing Chew's actions as "reprehensible", District Judge Crystal Ong sentenced him to five years' jail and a fine of $144,000 yesterday.

He committed the offences between May 2013 and August 2013 by making use of two shell companies known as NCK Construction and All Rounder Builders (ARB).

According to court documents, he worked with Toh Gim Por, 44, and Mr Sim Oon Peng, 38, to obtain work passes for 26 of the men. The documents also stated that Chew and Mr Poh Ah Ho, 29, obtained the passes for the remaining 20.

In her submissions, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Prosecutor Joanne Wee said: "Such offences inevitably result in social consequences, as vulnerable foreigners... have to source for their own employment, inevitably illegal employment, at work sites.

"As their official employers, both NCK and ARB were businesses that were not in operation, none of the foreign employees was given any basic upkeep, such as accommodation, nor were they entitled to workmen compensation should any workplace injuries occur."

Ms Wee said Toh had testified in court that the purpose of the two firms was to "make money".

However, the submissions did not mention how this was done. There was also no evidence to suggest Chew benefited from these offences directly or otherwise.

During the trial, Toh testified that Chew hatched the plot in May 2013.

Toh then roped in Mr Sim to be the director of NCK Construction and Mr Poh as the director of ARB. These directors were promised up to $25,000 each.

Ms Wee said they would also be given about $1,000 monthly and between $500 and $1,000 for every work pass application received.

She said: "(Their role) was to sign on applications for work passes in their capacity as directors of the companies before the applications were submitted to the MOM."

Toh told the court that he received between $4,000 and $6,000 for contributing to the scheme.

Pleading for a lighter sentence, Chew, who was unrepresented, told the court yesterday that he wished to appeal. He was offered bail of $30,000.

Toh, who pleaded guilty on July 21 last year to five of 46 charges, was jailed for three years and four months, and fined $15,000.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MOM said Mr Sim and Mr Poh have not been charged in court. The 46 Chinese men have been sent home. For each count of engaging in a conspiracy to illegally obtain a work pass, Chew could have been jailed between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Labour scam mastermind jailed 5 years, fined $144k'. Print Edition | Subscribe