Twelve Cupcakes wages case: Co-founder Jaime Teo fined $65,000 for role in underpaying staff

Jaime Teo Chai-lin pleaded guilty on Feb 4 to 10 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
Jaime Teo Chai-lin pleaded guilty on Feb 4 to 10 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Artiste Jaime Teo Chai-lin, 43, was on Tuesday (March 9) fined $65,000 for failing to prevent Twelve Cupcakes - a home-grown confectionery chain which she co-founded - from underpaying its foreign workers.

The Singaporean, who is also a former model, pleaded guilty on Feb 4 to 10 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Fourteen other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Teo, who founded the firm in 2011 with former radio DJ Daniel Ong Ming Yu, 45, her husband then, admitted that she had been neglectful.

The court heard that the arrears in salary totalling $98,900 from when the pair owned the company remain outstanding to date.

Teo and Ong sold the firm to Kolkata-based Dhunseri Group for $2.5 million in 2016.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Maximilian Chew told the court that Teo and Ong jointly decided to employ foreign workers in 2012.

Seven of them - four customer service executives, two sales executives and a pastry chef - were underpaid between 2013 and 2016.

For instance, the pastry chef, who was supposed to receive a monthly salary of $2,300 in mid-2014, received $1,600 instead and continued receiving a lower salary until mid-2016.

The other six foreigners also received less than what they were supposed to.

Teo was represented by lawyers Sunil Sudheesan and Diana Ngiam.

In mitigation, her lawyers told the court their client had never played a decision-making role in the human resource (HR) aspect of the business when she was a director of Twelve Cupcakes.

They said Teo did not know at the time that there were differences between the declared salary amounts in the employment contracts and the actual sums the workers received.

On Jan 12, Twelve Cupcakes, under its current owner, was fined $119,500 for underpaying seven of its foreign employees, including one worker who received only about half the wages at times.

The company was convicted on Dec 10 last year of 15 counts of underpaying the employees in 2017 and 2018.

Ong was charged with 24 counts under the Act last year and his case is still pending.

For each charge under the Act, an offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.