SINGAPORE: A cafe manager was jailed nine months on Thursday for ’phantom worker’ offences.
43—year—old Singaporean man, Patrick Boo Tuang Hock was convicted of 15 counts of making false declarations to the Controller of Work Passes. Boo is the 21st person to be jailed for phantom worker offences this year.
In sentencing, District Judge Eddy Tham said Boo had played a deliberate role in commissioning the offences.
Boo has filed an appeal against the conviction and has also indicated that he will be appealing against the sentence.
The Manpower Ministry said during the six—and—a—half—day trial, the court heard that Boo had arranged for his business partner Lau Yew Leong to invest money to open BNR Caf.
Although Lau had provided the investment sum, it was Boo, in his capacity as the operations manager of the caf, who called the shots and made all operational, recruitment and financial decisions in relation to the caf’s business.
To inflate the caf’s entitlement for foreign workers, Boo made CPF contributions for five local persons who had no employment relationship with the caf.
These CPF contributions were made as early as July 2008, even though BNR Caf did not start operations until five months later. Boo had personally prepared 15 work pass applications.
He also 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 accounts 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 Caf.
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.
When MOM brought charges against Boo in court, Boo claimed trial.
During the course of the 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 caf.
But 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.
At the end of the trial, the Honourable District Judge found Boo guilty and convicted him of all 15 charges.
MOM’s Director of Legal Services and Lead Prosecutor Kenneth Yap 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."
The first six months of 2012 saw 26 cases involving ’phantom workers’ being prosecuted and convicted in court. For 2010 and 2011, a total of 41 and 39 cases respectively were prosecuted and convicted in court for the same offences.
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