The sole proprietor of a maid employment agency brought in a Myanmar national whose passport stated she was of the minimum age of 23, only to find out later that she was just 13 years old.
The teenager's real age came to light last year when she went for her finger-printing and photo image appointment at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) service centre in Bendemeer Road. It emerged that her agent was the one who had applied for her passport.
Khor Siew Tiang, 35, who owns Vista Employment Services, was given the maximum fine of $5,000 yesterday after admitting she had failed to ascertain the girl's real age on July 29 last year.
She is the second offender to be dealt with in court in recent weeks for bringing in an underage maid.
On June 14, Casa Employment Specialist was also fined $5,000.
Yesterday, MOM prosecutor Vala Muthupalaniappan told the court that Khor, who speaks Bahasa Indonesia, would usually conduct Skype interviews with candidates from Indonesia before processing their applications.
But in the case of the Myanmar national, she had relied on an agent as she could not speak the language.
The court heard that she failed to conduct a basic interview with the girl on matters such as her family history and work experience to ensure that she was of the right age.
Instead, Khor relied solely on information provided in the girl's passport and biodata.
Ms Vala, in urging District Judge Adam Nakhoda to impose the maximum fine, said: "The accused had totally disregarded the duties and responsibilities entrusted to her."
Khor's lawyer, Mr Nicholas Ngoh from Optimus Chambers, said his client's employment agency licence has been suspended. In asking for Khor to be given a lower fine of between $2,000 and $4,000, he said: "She has now lost her sole means of employment where she had at least 12 years of working experience."
The Straits Times reported on May 27 that as of last year, Singapore had 240,000 maids and that lately, more underage maids have been uncovered.
MOM disclosed that the incidence of underage maids was 8.7 out of every 10,000 maids last year. It was 4.3 and 6.4 in 2016 and 2015 respectively. Last year, the ministry punished more than 80 employment agencies for bringing in underage maids - an exponential rise from nine between 2012 and 2016.
The penalties ranged from warnings and demerit points to the suspension of licences.