Human trafficking probe: S'porean faces fresh allegations over 6 Filipinas

A SINGAPOREAN being investigated in the Philippines for human trafficking faces fresh allegations of wrongdoing for bringing in six Filipinas to work in his Tanjong Pagar pub.

Mr Robin James Chua, 47, is suspected of illegal recruitment and human trafficking "because he is not authorised to recruit Filipinos to Singapore", said Cebu assistant city prosecutor Liceria Lofranco-Rabillas on Thursday.

"There may also have been abuse or prostitution," she said.

Ms Rabillas added that the six were in Singapore in 2011 on a tourist visa, and had not registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency as required by the laws of the country.

This was allegedly instigated by Mr Chua and his then-wife, Filipina Dolores Yamson Salvado.

The case of the six women came to light last month when Ms Rabillas' office wrote to the Philippine Embassy here to inquire about earlier complaints against Mr Chua.

It did so after he was stopped from leaving for Singapore at Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Oct 12 with Ms Jeremay Buenaventura, 22, suspected to be a victim of human trafficking.

His alleged accomplices in this case were his Filipina girlfriend Fraulline May Soria and her aunt Lurlie Soria.

According to Singapore official records, Mr Chua was married twice here, and has been the director and managing director of Rapids PRD pub since 2005.

The Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation had been monitoring Mr Chua, who has been a frequent visitor since 2006.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Manpower, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said the six Filipinas held work permits to be performing artistes at Rapids PRD.

They made a report to the ministry on Nov 16, 2011, saying that Mr Chua owed them their salary.

"Their performing artiste work permits were terminated shortly after that," said a ministry spokesman.

She added that four of the women later withdrew the claims and were repatriated.

The other two were paid their wages following an order from the Assistant Commissioner for Labour on Feb 14, last year. They, too, were repatriated, the spokesman added.

The Philippine authorities have impounded Mr Chua's passport as evidence, but he has not been formally charged in court nor has he been detained.

When The Straits Times visited Rapids PRD two weeks ago, a bartender who gave his name as Teddy denied that the pub hires Filipinas.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Thursday that they had contacted their Philippine counterparts for more information.

"As of now, we have not received further reports or requests for assistance pertaining to this matter," said a police spokesman.

"If approached, SPF will provide the necessary assistance in accordance with our laws and mutually agreed framework."

Separately, Australian national Troy Russell Birthisel and his Filipina girlfriend, Lovely Jane Modina, were charged in the Philippines last month for human trafficking.

They are accused of trying to bring six women into Singapore on the pretext of a job interview for service industry jobs in Australia.

waltsim@sph.com.sg


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