Illegal labour importation syndicate taken down by Ministry of Manpower

MOM officers arrested one of the syndicate members and searched the vehicle for evidence.
MOM officers arrested one of the syndicate members and searched the vehicle for evidence.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

SINGAPORE - A syndicate involved in setting up shell companies for bringing in illegal foreign workers was taken down on Wednesday (July 12) by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which mounted a simultaneous operation at several locations.

The operation, which lasted more than 18 hours, covered locations such as Jalan Besar, Little India and Toa Payoh. Residential units, office premises and workers' quarters were inspected as part of the operation.

A total of 13 people - three suspected syndicate members and 10 foreign workers - were arrested. Items such as identification cards, mobile phones, name lists of workers, bank transaction receipts, SingPass tokens and employment documents were seized.

Investigations are ongoing.

Syndicates that illegally bring in foreign workers typically set up shell companies - firms with no actual business operations.

They would then hire fall guys as directors of these shell companies, and misuse their SingPass accounts to make false work pass applications.

Evidence gathered throughout the operations. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

These syndicates obtain the quota to employ foreign workers using "phantom local workers", and profit from collecting large amounts of kickbacks from the foreign workers, said the MOM in a statement on Thursday (July 13).

As there is no actual employment, these foreign workers are subsequently released to find their own jobs, and they end up working illegally across all industrial sectors.

These syndicates also put the well-being of the foreign workers at risk, said the MOM, as shell companies would not be offering basic care and protection such as medical care, insurance protection and accommodation.

Mr Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division, said the ministry "does not condone anyone who blatantly disregards our work pass controls to profit from the illegal importation of labour".

He added that enforcement action will be taken against those responsible.

In the past two years, the ministry conducted six major operations against syndicates involved in the illegal importation of labour. These syndicates set up nine firms and brought in some 700 workers. A total of 19 syndicate members were arrested.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, those convicted of illegal labour importation can be jailed for between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000 per charge. For convictions of six or more charges, caning will also be imposed. 

Employers who hire foreign workers seeking illegal employment can be fined between $5,000 and $30,000, or jailed for up to 12 months, or both. They may also be barred from employing foreign workers.