For the first time, a company director will be caned for offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Goh Eng Kiat, 33, was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining work passes for 30 foreign workers as construction labour. It was fraudulent because the company, Jasper Contractors, did not require them and did not have work for them. The illegal hiring occurred between November 2013 and March 2014.

These 30 charges were a subset of 117 charges. The remaining 87 were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing.

He was sentenced to 45 months’ imprisonment and five strokes of the cane. He was also ordered to pay $75,000, but as he was unable to, he has to serve a further 5 months in default. That makes a total of 50 months in jail.

Bankruptcy proceedings have also been instituted against Goh.

According to the news story on Channel NewsAsia, his modus operandi was to import the workers and then “release” them to the underground job market, where the workers would have to find their own work. Typically, the “employer” would obtain monthly kickbacks from these workers for the “privilege” of getting work passes for them and also to cover the cost of the monthly levies payable to the Ministry of Manpower.

Channel NewsAsia reported that in total, Goh had received a total of $292,500 from the foreign workers — it is not clear whether this was the amount from 30 workers or all 117.

Although it was not detailed in the news report, it is likely that Goh was charged under section 22B of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. This section states:

22B.—(1) Any person who —

(a) obtains a work pass for a foreign employee for a trade or business that does not exist, that is not in operation or that does not require the employment of such a foreign employee; and

(b) fails to employ the foreign employee,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 6 months and not more than 2 years and shall also be liable to a fine not exceeding $6,000.

(2) Where any person is —

(a) charged with more than 5 offences under subsection (1); and

(b) convicted of at least 6 of those offences at the same trial,

the person shall be punished, subject to sections 325(1) and 330(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap. 68), with caning in addition to the punishment prescribed for those offences.

(3) Where, by virtue of sections 325(1) and 330(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the person referred to in subsection (2) is not punishable with caning, he shall, in lieu of caning, be punished with a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Channel NewsAsia added that in  the last two years, thirteen individuals have been convicted for the illegal importation of labour.