A total of 44 suspects were arrested during a two-day islandwide enforcement operation against a syndicate involved in bringing in foreign workers for illegal employment, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday (Aug 2).
The operation – lasting more than 48 hours – took place at several locations including offices, residential units and construction sites. As a result, six alleged members of the syndicate and 38 foreign workers were arrested, it said in its press release.
According to the ministry, syndicates that illegally bring in foreign labour would typically set up shell companies. They would hire "fall guys" as directors of these shell companies, and misuse their SingPass accounts to make fraudulent work pass applications.
They also obtain the quota to employ foreign workers using “phantom workers”.
The fall guys would usually have no knowledge of what the company does. The syndicates would then collect large amounts of kickbacks from the foreign workers, hence “making significant illegal monies in the process”, it added.
MOM said that since there is no actual employment, the foreign workers are then released to find their own employment. Many of them conspire with the syndicates in order to obtain a work pass to stay in Singapore. They typically find their own employment illegally, it said.
Items such as work permit cards, name lists of workers, and SingPass tokens were seized during the two-day operation, MOM said. Investigations are currently ongoing.
Commenting on the operations, Mr Kevin Teoh, Divisional Director of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said: “If convicted, employers can be imprisoned up to two years, fined up to S$6,000 per charge and caned as well. Employers and main contractors must do their due diligence to ensure that all foreign workers at their worksites have valid work passes. It is illegal to hire foreign workers who are released by their official employers to find their own work.”
In 2015, MOM conducted four major operations against syndicates involved in the illegal importation of labour. These syndicates had set up four companies and had brought in approximately 300 workers. A total of 12 syndicate members were arrested, it said.