Worker's plea for shorter jail term rejected

Foreign worker lied about being injured at work; his woes were 'self-created', says judge

A convicted foreign worker's plea for a shorter jail term as he had remained jobless for almost two years after lying that he got injured after falling from a ladder, cut no ice with a district judge, who made clear that his woes were "very much self-created".

"There was certainly no evidence presented by the defence to show the accused's plight was due to any delay on the part of the investigative authorities or of the prosecution," said District Judge Luke Tan.

"In essence, the accused was simply lying on the bed he had made," added the judge in decision grounds issued last month.

Bangladeshi Mia Mukles, 30, had been found guilty of making a false claim for injury compensation to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and for lying in a statement to an investigating officer that he had slipped and fallen while climbing a ladder to his work area and injured his back.

The offences occurred in June 2015, in relation to injuries suffered from the alleged fall on May 17 that year while he was working for Wee Seng Marine & Engineering at the Keppel Fels Shipyard.

MOM prosecutors led by Mr Mohamed Riasudeen called seven witnesses, including two co-workers, his supervisor and two doctors, to testify at the trial.

Mukles, defended pro bono by lawyer Anil Balchandani, denied that he had lied and maintained he had actually climbed the ladder and fallen, landing on his back.

The judge noted that no one had actually seen him go up the ladder or fall from it and the court heard, among other things, that there was no need for him to climb up that day to work on the second level.

His co-worker, Mr Ali Hasmot, had turned his back to make a telephone call to the supervisor as Mukles had a stomachache and headache. When he turned back, he saw Mukles writhing on the ground.

The judge found the accounts of Mr Hasmot and the two other Bangladeshis to be "particularly siginificant", since their names had been provided by Mukles to MOM, supposedly to support his claim for compensation.

He said: "Yet the sum total of their evidence was that they did not see (Mukles) climb up or fall off the ladder as he had claimed."

The judge also found Mukles' evidence to be " inconsistent, incoherent and incredible".

Prosecutors cited four previous court cases of such false claims under the Work Injury Compensation Act, including two cases in which the convicted offenders had lied they had fallen from ladders.

The judge sentenced Mukles to six weeks' jail for the first charge and four weeks' jail concurrently for the second charge.

Mukles, who is on bail pending appeal, is currently receiving food and lodging assistance from the non-profit migrant workers' help group Transient Workers Count Too, said executive committee member Debbie Fordyce yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Worker's plea for shorter jail term rejected'. Print Edition | Subscribe