Company director jailed for withholding salaries of foreign workers, making them pay for work pass renewals

Company director jailed for withholding salaries of foreign workers, making them pay for work pass renewals

gavel crime
(File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A company director has been sentenced to 30 weeks’ jail after facing more than 200 charges for various employment offences, including withholding foreign workers’ salaries and making them pay to renew their work passes.

Shan Jianxin, the director of Shan Jian Xin Construction and the purporting director of Xin Yue (Tongzhou) Construction Development, carried out various employment crimes to benefit his struggling companies and to prevent the workers from running away.

In total, he took S$12,200 from eight workers and failed to pay the salaries of 30 workers amounting to almost S$100,000.

His crimes unravelled after a group of foreign workers walked into the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to complain about their mistreatment, court documents showed on Monday (Feb 17).

WATCH: Keeping Singapore’s migrant workers safe

WORKERS HAD TO PAY TO CONTINUE WORKING IN SINGAPORE

In 2017, MOM carried out investigations that revealed both Shan Jian Xin Construction and Xin Yue Construction deducted a sum of money from the salaries of eight foreign workers for the renewal of their work passes.

Shan did this “as the companies faced a cash flow problem and the collection of monies will prevent foreign employees from running away”, stated the court documents.

The eight workers, who held valid work passes to be employed as construction workers, were told they had to pay S$3,000 to S$5,000 as work pass renewal fees if they wished to continue to work for the companies. They agreed because they wanted to continue working in Singapore.

“Various sums ranging from S$300 to S$1,000 would be deducted from their salaries on a monthly basis until the full work pass renewal fee is paid up,” according to court documents.

“The amount of renewal fee charged was determined by the accused and dependent on the foreign employee’s work performance and character.”

The amounts deducted were written in pencil on the workers’ monthly payslips, and they were not given a copy.

The accused’s wife was in-charge of salary payments for the foreign employees and would make the deductions with the consent of the accused. 

"The accused, acting in his capacity as the director of Shan Jian Xin Construction and purported director of Xin Yue Construction made the decision for and on behalf of the companies to make the said deductions from the salaries of the foreign employees."

By deducting money multiple times between April 2016 and January 2017, Shan took a total of S$12,200 from the eight workers.

READ: Company director faces 66 charges including collecting kickbacks from and illegally hiring foreign workers

ALMOST S$100,000 IN UNPAID WORKERS' SALARIES 

Further investigations in 2018 by MOM showed that Shan failed to pay 15 workers from Shan Jian Xin Construction and another 15 from Xin Yue Construction between Jul 1, 2018 and Oct 26, 2018.

Shan did not pay the workers from Shan Jian Xin Construction because of “limited funds”.

“The accused instead chose to use the remaining funds available to renew the levies of the foreign workers, instead of paying their salaries, to ensure that the work permits would remain valid as well as to keep the company operational. 

“Despite knowing that the company was facing difficulties with paying the salaries of the foreign workers, the accused continued to employ them,” the court documents stated.

The workers from Shan Jian Xin Construction were owed a total of S$67,665.97.

It was a similar plight that 15 other workers from Xin Yue Construction faced. Although Shan was the purporting director of the company, he ran the company operations and managed the company’s cash flow. He was also responsible for paying the salaries of the employees of the company.

Xin Yue Construction was facing difficulties paying the salaries of the foreign workers between July 2018 and August 2018, but Shan continued to employ them until Oct 26, 2018.

The workers from Xin Yue Construction were owed a total of S$29,922.74.

Shan later told his workers to lodge a complaint with MOM as he could not pay their salaries any longer, prompting the workers to take action.

Shan has not made any restitution to the 30 workers involved, court documents showed. Partial restitution was subsequently made by other parties, which included the main contractor and insurers.

Shan will start his sentence on Mar 2.

MOM prosecutors Mohd Rizal and Jason Chua had pushed for a global sentence of at least 35 weeks’ imprisonment, stating that general deterrence was the predominant sentencing consideration.

“Foreign workers are often vulnerable in need of constant protection. The sentence imposed should thus deter like-minded individuals from contemplating committing such offences,” the prosecution urged. 

Source: CNA/aa

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