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The Straits Times reported that Ng Boon Cheng, managing director of Lian Lee Wooden Case Maker Co (above, in ST pic), was fined $60,000 on 22 November 2016 for collecting kickbacks from his foreign workers. The story came out in the newspaper’s 23 November online edition.
The newspaper reported that:
Ng pleaded guilty to collecting kickbacks amounting to more than $93,000 over a three-year period – from Nov 9, 2012, to October 2015.
He would conduct interviews with his workers before the renewal of their work permits were due, during which he informed them they had to pay renewal fees in order to continue their employment with the company.
The fees would be deducted from their monthly salaries.
They were also informed that if they did not agree to the deductions, their permits would not be renewed.
A total of 20 foreign workers were involved, with sums ranging from $575 to $9,000 deducted from their salaries.
TWC2 knows this to be a common practice despite it being illegal. Our case database shows that one Bangladeshi worker from Lian Lee Wooden Case Maker Co had come to us for assistance. He told us that he had to agree to paying $3,000 to the boss for each annual renewal of his work permit.
Many workers who come to us over other problems have reported that they too have had to pay their bosses for the ‘privilege’ of getting renewals for their work permits. Whether one prosecution like this will deter other employers is not assured.
The news story added that the Ministry of Manpower has banned Ng, aged 55, from employing foreign workers in future.
In the 24 November 2016 print edition of the Straits Times, it was further reported that the workers were Bangladeshi and that the sums Ng pocketed,
totalling over $93,000, has been returned to them, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a statement yesterday, the day after Ng was fined.
About half of the workers have gone home, while some have been offered new jobs, MOM told The Straits Times.
Others who were helping the prosecution in the case were given temporary jobs on special passes and can either return home or look for another employer here.
The newspaper also reported that a total of 38 people have been convicted in the past two years. This figure came from MOM.
Straits Times contacted Debbie Fordyce, Executive Committee member of TWC2 for a comment. She said (and was reported):
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) executive committee member Debbie Fordyce said evidence is hard to come by because workers are not given receipts.
They often have only a name and mobile number of someone linked to the company, which is not sufficient to identify the recipient of the money.
They are also reluctant to risk their jobs by speaking out.
TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our