Trial biased, says man in phantom workers scam

Trial biased, says man in phantom workers scam

A cafe manager appealing against his conviction and jail sentence for a "phantom workers" scam told the court on Tuesday he had hoped for a woman judge because they are "less susceptible to corruption".

However, Patrick Boo Tuang Hock, 44, faced Justice Tay Yong Kwang.

Representing himself to argue that his seven-day district court trial was biased, Boo told him: "I was relieved and comforted when I saw you. I had a good impression of you. I know you are a fair and just judge."

Boo was found guilty last year of making false declarations to the Manpower Ministry in 2009. He was convicted of 15 charges and jailed for nine months. In a bid to meet quotas so that he could employ more foreign workers, Boo had told the authorities he employed five locals at his BNR Cafe outlets in Tuas and at Old Airport Road. But the five on the payroll were actually phantom workers.

The applications for the foreigners' work permits stated BNR Cafe's CPF account included contributions to only active employees, when actually these were being made to people who did not work there.

Boo's accusations of bias were aimed at a male district judge who found BNR Cafe's operations manager was aware of the false declarations when the application forms were submitted to the Controller of Work Passes.

Boo argued unsuccessfully he had not known it was illegal to hire the phantom workers, and that he had acted under the instructions of his business partner, who he said was the true cafe owner.

Boo had submitted a 468-page document, which included the bias allegations, to the High Court.

He expressed disappointment on Tuesday that Justice Tay called the case "straightforward" at an earlier appeal hearing in August. The judge explained that the issues in the case are straightforward.

Boo also argued he was "handicapped" without legal representation. He said he had failed to secure help from the Law Society because his offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act were not covered under the society's Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

In response, Justice Tay asked if Boo would agree to being represented by lawyer Lionel Leo, who had offered to help. Mr Leo's name was taken from a list of lawyers under the Supreme Court's Young Amicus Curiae - or friend of the court - scheme. The judge said he did not handpick or appoint the lawyer for this case.

Boo was convicted in 2010 of running an employment agency without a licence and had an appeal dismissed in 2011.

Justice Tay adjourned the present case to a date to be fixed.

pohian@sph.com.sg


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