The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) charged 37-year-old Indian national Sivasundaram Veeramani in the State Courts yesterday (16 March) with 20 counts of submitting false information in work pass applications. Sivasundaram is an ex-Director of Koa Low Engineering Pte Ltd The accused faced 16 other charges for demanding a total of $34,500 in criminal kickbacks as a condition for the foreign employees’ continued employment with the Company, and six further charges of engaging in a conspiracy with another employer to hire foreign workers without valid work passes.
Koa Low Engineering was also charged in court yesterday for similar false declaration and kickback offences. In total, the accused and the company faced 42 and 36 charges respectively under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (“EFMA”).
Between November 2015 and March 2016, Sivasundaram falsely declared on behalf of the company, the fixed monthly salaries of 20 foreign employees to be at least $4,800 so as to meet the Employment Pass (EP) minimum salary requirement. Unlike the S-Pass and Work Permit schemes, no foreign worker levy or quota is required for EP. Sivasundaram knew that his foreign employees would be paid less than the declared salaries in their Employment Pass applications.
Between September 2015 and February 2016, the accused demanded from 16 foreign employees, sums ranging from $1,500 to $2,200 as kickbacks. The demand for, or collection of kickbacks, or other benefits as a condition or financial guarantee for the employment or continued employment of a foreign employee, is prohibited under the EFMA.
MOM’s investigations also revealed that the the accused engaged in a conspiracy sometime in May 2014 with a Singapore PR, to employ six foreign workers to work without valid work passes.
MOM said in a statement that the kickbacks have since been returned to most of the affected workers. The case has been adjourned to 27 April 2017. .
It is an offence for an employer to submit false information in work pass applications to the Controller of Work Passes. The offender can be fined up to $20,000 or imprisoned up to two years or to both per charge. For collecting kickbacks, the offender can be fined up to $30,000 or imprisoned up to two years or to both per charge. Anyone convicted of illegal employment can be fined a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $30,000 or imprisoned for up to one year or both per charge.
MOM may also ban the offender and company from employing new foreign workers and not grant any work pass renewals.
MOM said that it conducts proactive checks to detect and enforce against false applications. It urged all employers to make accurate, complete and truthful declarations to the Controller of Work Passes.
It also advised foreign employees who are pressured into giving kickbacks to seek help from MOM immediately. The Ministry requested members of the public who know of persons or employers who contravene the EFMA to report the matter to MOM, and that all information will be kept strictly confidential.