MOM busts illegal employment syndicate, arrests 13

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SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has dismantled a syndicate involved in bringing in foreign workers for illegal employment in Singapore in an island-wide operation on Wednesday (Jul 12), it said. 

In a press release, MOM said it inspected residential units, office premises and workers’ quarters in locations such as Jalan Besar, Little India and Toa Payoh as part of the operation, which lasted more than 18 hours. 

Thirteen people, including three suspected syndicate members and 10 foreign workers, were arrested and items such as identification cards, mobile phones, name lists of workers, bank transaction receipts, Singpass tokens and employment documents were seized, the authority added. 

Investigations are ongoing, MOM said. 

Evidence seized in the operation. (Photo: MOM)

In the press release, the ministry said syndicates that illegally bring in foreign workers typically set up shell companies and hire “fall guys” as directors of these companies, using their Singpass accounts to make fraudulent work pass applications.

These syndicates meet the local worker quota to employ foreign workers using “phantom local workers” and profit from collecting large amounts of kickbacks from the foreign workers. As there is no actual employment, the foreign workers are released to find their own employment, MOM added. 

“Labour syndicates severely undermine the integrity of our work pass framework at many levels, including deceiving the authorities of operating a genuine business and bringing in foreign workers without any jobs for them. The foreign workers are subsequently released to find their own jobs, and they end up working illegally across all industrial sectors,” the authority said. 

The syndicates also put the well-being of the foreign workers at risk, as shell companies would not be providing basic care and protection such as medical care, insurance protection and accommodation, it noted. 

In the last two years, MOM said it has conducted six major operations against syndicates involved in the illegal importation of labour and arrested 19 syndicate members. These syndicates had set up nine companies and had brought in approximately 700 workers, it stated. 

Those convicted of illegal labour importation face between six months and two years in jail and a fine of up to S$6,000 per charge. If convicted for six or more charges, caning will also be imposed.

Employers who hire foreign workers seeking illegal employment face a fine of between S$5,000 and S$30,000 and up to 12 months’ imprisonment. They may also be barred from employing foreign workers.

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