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MOM Smashes Syndicate Involved in Illegal Importation of Labour

  1. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) mounted an island-wide enforcement operation from 1 to 2 July 2015 against a syndicate suspected to be involved in the illegal importation of labour, or bringing in foreign workers for illegal employment. The operation saw the arrest of 41 persons, which included the alleged mastermind and members of the syndicates.

    Modus Operandi
  2. The syndicate would set up shell companies to bring in the foreign workers. Enormous profits would be derived from collecting large amount of kickbacks. As there is no actual employment, the upkeep and maintenance are left to these workers who have unwittingly become victims of the scam. In other instances, there are also workers who would willingly pay a large sum of money to be part of the scam in order to obtain a genuine work pass. In turn, they would seek illegal employment.

    Implications of Illegal Labour Importation
  3. Singaporeans are denied employment opportunities when employers fail to pay the true costs of hiring foreign manpower or hiring foreign manpower that they are not entitled to. Law abiding employers are also disadvantaged. More importantly, this prevents our economy from making critical adjustment towards productivity-driven growth, since employers could circumvent our foreign manpower policy framework and continue to have access to cheap foreign manpower.

    Zero-tolerance towards Illegal Employment and Syndicated Activities
  4. Commenting on the operations, Mr Kevin Teoh (张庆兴), Divisional Director of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division (人力部外来人力管理署署长), said: “This operation to weed out syndicates involved in the illegal importation of labour is part of MOM’s overall enforcement strategy. This is to ensure a level playing field in the employment landscape such that law abiding employers are not disadvantaged. We will continue to use the full force of the law to take perpetrators who deliberately circumvent our work pass framework to task. Even as we continue to step up our enforcement efforts, we urge employers to partner us in our efforts to clamp down on illegal employment by reporting such activity to MOM and/or by employing workers through the proper means.”

  5. Recognising the need to target syndicates who profit from the illegal import of labour, the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) was amended in November 2012 to give MOM greater enforcement powers to deal and heavily penalise offenders involved in illegal labour importation. To enforce the law, MOM has conducted multiple operations to cripple these syndicates1. Prosecution action will be taken against persons who have been found to be involved in such illegal activities. 
  6. For being the mastermind of a syndicate that imports foreign workers for illegal employment, the offender may be fined up to $6,000 and/or face an imprisonment of six months to two years per worker. If convicted of at least six similar offences at the same trial, the offender is liable to caning. The runners who abet the offence will face similar punishment. 
  7. Employers who hire foreign workers seeking illegal employment face a fine of between $5,000 and $30,000 or up to 12 months’ imprisonment or to both. They may also be barred from employing foreign workers. For foreigners who work without valid work passes, they face a fine of up to $20,000 or 24 months’ imprisonment or to both. They may also be barred from working in Singapore.

    MOM Advisory
  8. Foreign workers who hold a valid work permit but have been asked by their official employers to find their own work should report immediately to MOM. MOM will investigate and provide the necessary assistance. Employers should not hire foreign workers who are seeking their own employment or come from companies which do not have any contractual relationship, as it is tantamount to illegal employment. They should take down the particulars of the foreign workers (including the name, work permit number, and employer stated on the work permit card), and report them immediately to MOM.
  9. Members of the public who know of persons or employers who contravene the EFMA should report the matter to MOM at Tel: (65) 6438 5122 or email All information will be kept strictly confidential. All information shared will be kept strictly confidential. 

1 In the past year, MOM has dismantled three syndicates involved in setting up seven companies which had brought in approximately 500 workers who were involved in illegal employment. A total of 19 syndicate members have been apprehended. Investigations are ongoing.