The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that the police busted a syndicate that was involved in bringing in workers for illegal employment in Singapore in an island-wide operation on Wednesday. The ministry added that 13 people, including three suspected syndicate members and 10 foreign workers, were arrested.
MOM said in a press release that the authorities inspected residential units, office premises and workers' quarters in locations such as Jalan Besar, Little India and Toa Payoh as part of the operation, which lasted more than 18 hours.
The ministry said items such as identification cards, mobile phones, name lists of workers, bank transaction receipts, Singpass tokens and employment documents were also seized during the operation. The investigations are going on.
According to the press release, syndicates that illegally bring in foreign workers typically set up shell companies and hire "fall guys" as directors of these companies, using their Singpass accounts to make fraudulent work pass applications.
MOM said that these syndicates meet the local worker quota to employ foreign workers using "phantom local workers" and profit from collecting large amounts of kickbacks from the foreign workers. It added that as there is no actual employment, the foreign workers are released to find their own employment.
"Labour syndicates severely undermine the integrity of our work pass framework at many levels, including deceiving the authorities of operating a genuine business and bringing in foreign workers without any jobs for them. The foreign workers are subsequently released to find their own jobs, and they end up working illegally across all industrial sectors," the authority said.
The ministry noted that the syndicates also put the well-being of the foreign workers at risk. The shell companies would not be providing basic care and protection such as medical care, insurance protection and accommodation.
MOM said that in the last two years, it has conducted six major operations against syndicates involved in the illegal importation of labour and arrested 19 syndicate members. These syndicates had set up nine companies and had brought in approximately 700 workers, it stated.
If convicted of illegal labour importation, the suspects face between six months and two years of jail along with a fine of up to S$6,000 per charge. If found guilty of six or more charges, caning will also be imposed along with it.
The authorities said that the employers, who hire foreign workers seeking illegal employment, will also face a fine of between S$5,000 and S$30,000 and up to 12 months' imprisonment. They may also be barred from employing foreign workers.