More foreigners caught with fake certificates

SINGAPORE - Indian national Praveen Kumar Bollu was hired by dance studio Prabhudeva Dance Academy here as a dance instructor and choreographer in July last year.

Armed with an Indian university degree, he obtained an Employment Pass - a permit for foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialised jobs.

His wages were considerable, at $4,700 a month. But the 27-year-old was living a lie. He had faked his university degree.

He was among a record number of 53 foreigners caught for forging educational qualifications this year, more than the 43 nabbed during the whole of last year.

The authorities revealed that 25 were charged in court on Tuesday, after a crackdown by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Court papers obtained by The Straits Times showed that 24 foreigners - with the exception of Praveen - lied so as to obtain S Passes.

Among the two dozen were salesmen, chefs and a hairstylist.

S Pass holders are mostly junior executives whose employers pay lower levies and face fewer hiring restrictions.

The foreigners, who came from Myanmar, India and the Philippines, all pleaded guilty. Twenty of them - including Praveen - were jailed for four weeks.

The remaining five are serving jail terms of 20 days each as they were unable to pay court fines of $5,000.

These foreigners will be deported after serving their jail sentences and will be barred from working here in the future.

The latest crackdown came after a law was amended last September. Now, the forging of educational certificates is a standalone offence whereby the foreign worker may be jailed for two years and fined $20,000.

Previously, the maximum penalty was a year in jail and a $15,000 fine.

Labour MP Zainal Sapari applauded MOM for the crackdown: "These foreigners who falsify their documents do so because they do not qualify for the work passes. Through false pretence, they take away jobs that could have otherwise gone to Singaporeans."

He also urged MOM to turn its attention to the bosses: "The Government can send a signal that it will also clamp down on errant employers and agents."

tohyc@sph.com.sg