SINGAPORE: A man who managed five companies that employed more than 100 foreign workers was jailed 34 weeks on Friday (Feb 24) for breaching employment regulations and exploiting the workers, making them live in squalid conditions and forcing at least two of them to accept less than half the salary they were promised.
Nallusamy Narayanan, 41, pleaded guilty to 25 of 68 charges. These include two charges for making false declarations to the Controller of Work Passes, seven for employing foreign workers without valid work passes and 16 charges for housing the men in unacceptable accommodation.
OVERCROWDED, POORLY MAINTAINED, ILLEGAL DORMS
In 2014, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) investigators found 110 foreign workers living in overcrowded and unsafe accommodation which had not been approved for use as dormitories.
All 110 men worked for at least one of the five companies managed by Nallusamy, who was in charge of employment and the payroll at each company.
At 13 Opal Crescent, on the first floor of a two-storey shophouse, investigators found 42 men crammed in two bedrooms. The front door was permanently locked, so workers used the back door to enter and leave. With only one way in and out, the unit was considered unsafe in the event of a fire, as it lacked an escape route.
At 340A Tanjong Katong Road, investigators found 25 men living in three bedrooms.
In two units in Selegie Centre, 43 men were found living in seven rooms.
MOM prosecutors Paul Cheong Yuen, Choo Khai Woon and Jonathan Sun said the premises were overcrowded and poorly maintained, not to mention illegal. They had not been approved for use as dormitories - and even if they had, each dormitory was not supposed to house more than eight workers per unit.
"VULNERABLE VICTIMS" HAD NO OPTION BUT TO OBEY
Besides putting workers without valid work passes to work, Nallusamy forced at least two of them to accept a salary of S$900 per month, when they had been promised S$2,300.
Nallusamy had bullied them into falsely declaring their salaries on their work pass applications, threatening to cancel the men’s work passes and send them back home if they refused to accept the lower salary.
The men were left with no choice, as they had borrowed or spent substantial sums to work in Singapore and did not want to risk losing their jobs, the prosecutors said.
“Foreign workers are the capillaries of many of our industries. They come to Singapore to make a living … many borrow heavily from their families and friends to come (here). When they arrive, they are beholden to their employers for providing them a livelihood,” the prosecutors said.
Nallusamy had “exploited” the workers out of “pure greed”, eager to cut costs, they said, urging the court to jail Nallusamy for 55 weeks.
“The accused had abused his authority, directed them to work illegally, falsely declared their salaries and crammed them into unacceptable accommodation,” prosecutors told the court. “These vulnerable victims did not have an alternative but to obey.”
Nallusamy’s lawyer, Mr S K Kumar, said Nallusamy has been made bankrupt trying to keep the companies afloat.
He has pawned S$55,000 worth of jewellery, taken loans totalling S$80,000 from family and friends, and borrowed about S$320,000 from moneylenders in India to pay the workers their salaries, business overheads and foreign worker levies, Mr Kumar said.