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Cafe Manager Jailed 9 Months for "Phantom Workers" Scam

12 July 2012

  1. A 43-year-old Singaporean man, Patrick Boo Tuang Hock (巫传福), was convicted of 15 counts of making false declarations to the Controller of Work Passes today. Boo is the 21st individual to be jailed for phantom worker offences this year. In sentencing Boo, District Judge Eddy Tham found that the accused had played a deliberate role in the commission of the offences, and sentenced him to a total imprisonment term of 9 months. The accused has already filed an appeal against conviction, and has indicated that he will be appealing against the sentence.

    Case Details
  2. During the six-and-a-half-day trial, the court heard that Boo, an MBA graduate, had arranged for his business partner Lau Yew Leong to invest money to open BNR Café. Although Lau had provided the investment sum, it was Boo, in his capacity as the Operation Manager of the café, who called the shots and made all operational, recruitment and financial decisions in relation to the café’s business.
  3. To inflate the café’s entitlement for foreign workers, Boo made CPF contributions for five local persons who had no employment relationship with the café. These CPF contributions were made as early as July 2008, even though BNR Café did not start operations until five months later. Boo had personally prepared 15 work pass applications, and arranged for the registered Director of BNR Cafe, Lim Yen Geok, to sign the work pass declaration, which stated that she was aware that BNR Cafe’s CPF account(s) were used by MOM’s Controller of Work Passes for the purpose of determining its local workforce and its foreign worker entitlement, certifying that the CPF contributions were only made to persons who were actively employed by BNR Cafe. Boo knew the statements were false as the five workers had never worked in his cafe. After Lim signed the forms, Boo arranged for the false declarations to be submitted to MOM.
  4. When MOM brought charges against Boo in court, Boo claimed trial. During the course of trial, he asserted that he did not know it was wrong to hire “phantom workers”, and claimed that he was acting under the instruction from Lau, whom he said was the true owner of the café.
  5. However, the prosecution succeeded in proving its case beyond reasonable doubt by showing that Boo knew that a false declaration was made when the application forms were submitted to the Controller of Work Passes.
  6. At the end of the trial, the Honourable District Judge found Boo guilty and convicted him of all 15 charges.

    MOM Takes Tough Stand against Phantom Worker Scams
  7. Lead Prosecutor Kenneth Yap (叶耀祖), MOM’s Director of Legal Services, said, “The Ministry takes a serious view of phantom worker scams as they undermine the Ministry’s efforts to properly regulate the inflow of foreign workers to Singapore. We will not hesitate to take such offenders to court, prove their guilt at trial if necessary, and ask the court for an appropriate penalty to deter such offences.”

    Responsibility of Employers to Make Correct Declarations
  8. It is the responsibility of all employers to make accurate, complete and truthful declarations to the Controller of Work Passes in all applications. Making a false declaration to the Controller through manipulation of their company/firm’s CPF accounts for the purpose of inflating their foreign workers entitlement is an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. If found guilty, the offender faces up to 12 months in prison or a fine not exceeding $15,000 or to both for each application submitted.
  9. In the first six months of 2012, there are 26 cases involving phantom workers which are prosecuted and convicted in court. For 2011 and 2010, a total of 39 and 41 cases respectively were prosecuted and convicted in court for the same offences.