Businessman jailed 3 months and fined $90,000 for illegally employing foreigners

SINGAPORE - Singaporean businessman, Neo Wee Seng, 39, was convicted on Thursday in the Subordinate Courts for hiring foreign employees without valid work passes.

Neo pleaded guilty to four charges of employing four foreigners without valid work passes as food packers in his capacity as the director of Rajdhani Restaurant & Catering Pte Ltd, and two charges of illegally employing two foreigners as stall assistants at his firm, Shamima Enterprise.

Neo also illegally employed 10 other foreigners for jobs such as a barber and shop assistant. The charges for the illegal employment of these remaining 10 foreigners were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a statement.

In total, the court sentenced Neo to three months' imprisonment and $90,000 fine or in default six months' imprisonment for the six proceeded charges.

As a repeat offender, Neo faced stricter penalties. He was previously convicted of five counts of illegal employment on Oct 12, 2010. 

Investigations revealed that Neo had employed four Bangladeshi nationals between Dec 28, 2012 and Jan 4, 2013 to work at his restaurant as food packers. Despite being aware that the foreigners did not possess valid work passes, and were thus not permitted to work for the restaurant, Neo made the decision as the restaurant's director to hire them.

Neo also ran another firm called Shamima Enterprise through which he employed two Bangladeshi nationals without valid work passes from mid-Jan 2013 to March 27, 2013 to work as assistants at his firm. Neo further hired another 10 foreigners in other jobs.

MOM has issued warnings to the 16 foreigners who were illegally employed. They will be sent home and banned from returning to Singapore to work.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), employers are not allowed to hire any foreigner without first obtaining a valid work pass from MOM. Employers who break the law can be prosecuted, and will be subjected upon conviction to a fine of between $5,000 and $30,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months for first-time offenders. They may also be barred from employing foreigners in future.

In 2012, 74 errant employers were convicted of illegal employment, while 98 employers were convicted last year.

maryanns@sph.com.sg