For a payment of $3,000, Ahmead Rubel, 28, found a job for fellow Bangladeshi, Jabed, to work as a construction worker in Nanjing Minglu Construction Engineering Co. Ltd. For conducting employment agency activities without a valid employment agency licence, Rubel — himself a construction worker — was fined $40,000 in default four months’ imprisonment, reported the AsiaOne news site on 15 May 2015. The trial was held on 29 and 30 April 2015.

This story did not seem to appear in the mainstream press, but a long statement was posted on the website of the Ministry of Manpower.

Describing this case as being one with the “First person to be convicted after a Court trial for conducting employment agency activities without a licence” — which itself is interesting because in TWC2’s experience such activities had been going on for a long time affecting many thousands of workers — MOM narrated the preceding events thus:

In early November 2013, Lu Zhibo , a senior site manager of a construction firm Nanjing Minglu Construction Engineering Co. Ltd (Singapore) was looking to hire construction workers for the company. He shared his intent with Rubel, who met up with a Bangladeshi worker Mosharaf near Mustafa Shopping Centre, and asked if Mosharaf knew of any Bangladeshi who wanted to work in Singapore. Mosharaf said he knew a Jabed (who was at the time still in Bnagladesh) and who wanted to find employment here. Rubel then told Mosharaf about the job vacancy, the salary and job description, and that he would charge $3,000 as his agent fee.

Mosharaf then conveyed the information to Jabed through the latter’s cousin — who appears also to be working in Singapore — and Jabed agreed to take up the job offer. Rubel requested for a copy of Jabed’s passport and other supporting documents to be sent to him via email, which Rubel then forwarded to Lu via “Whatsapp”. Lu agreed to take on Jabed and the company applied online successfully for a Work Permit for him.

Jabed’s cousin handed $3,000 to Mosharaf and Mosharaf then handed the money to Rubel. Jabed arrived in Singapore four days later. He worked from 26 Dec 2013 to 9 June 2014.

Rubel was found to have contravened the Employment Agencies Act for acting as an agent without a licence. The penalty provided in the law is a fine not exceeding $80,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both. The maximum fine and jail sentence is doubled for the second or subsequent conviction.

MOM said that it has also taken separate action against the company in view of its role in the commission of the offence. On 10 July 2014, the company pleaded guilty to one charge for using the services of Rubel and was fined $4,000. Two other charges under the same section were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing — which suggests that the company used Rubel’s (or some other unlicensed agent’s) services on two other occasions.