'We were tricked'

Mr Arjun (second from left), Mr Harpreet (third from left) and their two friends claimed they were told to fly back to India once they reached Kuala Lumpur.

SINGAPORE - Four Indian cooks claim that their Singapore employer cooked up a story to get them out of the country.

The four Indian foreign workers thought they were going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a bakery course on Aug 5.

Instead, they were driven to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, shown tickets for flights bound for India and told to fly home immediately.

Mr Harpreet, 27, said: "How can our boss do this to us? We were tricked."

We are not using the cooks' and their employer's real names to protect their identity.

Incensed, Mr Harpreet said they ran away and jumped into a taxi to Johor Baru.

They reached Singapore at about 5pm that day and another cook, Mr Arjun, 25, made a police report at Kolam Ayer Neighbourhood Police Post at Geylang Bahru about five hours later.

The police have confirmed the report.

Incredible encounter

The story starts in March, when Mr Arjun approached the employer, Mr Ismail, as he wanted his spouse to join him in Singapore as a dependent.

Mr Arjun signed the documents his employer gave him and for about four months, he waited for his wife to arrive.

But he claimed that the anxiety turned to horror after an incredible encounter.

He said he chatted with a woman at a temple near Little India and found out that she had come to Singapore by pretending to be the wife of an Indian national working here. When he asked for the name of the man, it turned out to be none other than his own.

Mr Arjun confronted Mr Ismail about it as he thought that the businessman had used his particulars to apply for the woman's arrival here.

This confrontation, he claimed, was the start of the trouble.

It led to a move by the company to send back employees from Punjab on the pretext that they were "causing trouble".

All four men come from the Indian state.

Mr Ismail, an Indian national and a Singapore permanent resident, is the director of several restaurants here at places including Little India.

The cooks told TNP that they worked for Mr Ismail at different outlets.

They used to hold employment passes that have since been cancelled.

The four men also accused Mr Ismail of withholding their salaries.

The cooks said they were each promised monthly salaries of between $3,200 and $4,050.

But they claimed that Mr Ismail paid them only $950 monthly and gave them blank salary vouchers to sign.

Said Mr Harpreet: "We signed as our boss told us he would give us the rest of the money when our contracts ended. We trusted him.

"We are now aware that we should not have signed the vouchers. We feel cheated."

Mr Harpreet said that they are now staying at different hostels and paying up to $300 a month out of their own pockets.

They want to continue working in Singapore. Since they are jobless, they can stay here only until the end of this month.

Mr Harpreet added that they went to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Aug 6 and had their statements recorded.

Responding to queries from TNP, the ministry said that the salary claims of the four foreign employees were heard before the Assistant Commissioner for Labour on Aug 26.

However, they decided to withdraw their claim in order to pursue the case in the civil court.

An MOM spokesman said: "Separately, their employer is being investigated for possible infringements of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. We are unable to provide further details, as investigations are ongoing." Mr Harpreet yesterday said that they have yet to file their legal papers.


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