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Work pass holders get jail for submitting false degree qualifications

Work pass holders get jail for submitting false degree qualifications

Manav Bharti University campus. (Photo: Facebook / Manav Bharti University)

SINGAPORE: Two Indian nationals have been jailed for submitting false qualifications to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in their work pass applications, the ministry said on Tuesday (Jul 27).

Bailwal Sunil Dutt was sentenced to one week's jail while Sutradhar Bijoy got a sentence of four weeks on Tuesday.

Their work passes have been revoked and they are now permanently barred from working in Singapore, said MOM.

In addition, MOM has charged one other work pass holder, Bhandare Raghavendra, also an Indian national, for the same offence.

 

READ: MOM investigating 15 work pass holders who declared qualifications from private university in India

 

From February, MOM conducted investigations into 23 foreigners who had declared qualifications from Manav Bharti University (MBU) in their work pass applications.

MOM said that among the remaining individuals, 19 will be permanently barred from future employment in Singapore while further investigation is ongoing for one person.

The probe in Singapore began after MOM was alerted that the Indian Government was investigating MBU for selling fake degrees.

Set up in 2009 in Himachal Pradesh, MBU is a private institution that is accredited by the Indian government and had issued genuine degrees, said MOM.

The two who were convicted were employed as a cook and an assistant warehouse manager in Singapore.

THE TWO CONVICTED

Dutt applied for an S Pass in December 2020 to be employed by the restaurant Al Capone’s as a cook. In his application, he stated that he had a bachelor’s degree in arts from MBU.

Bijoy made a similar declaration in his application in 2015 for an S Pass to be employed by Lye M S Trading as an assistant warehouse manager. 

According to court documents, Dutt was initially enrolled in Hemwati Nandan Bhaguna University in 2010 but dropped out due to financial difficulties.

Later, an acquaintance who was said to be a staff member in MBU told him that he could obtain a degree qualification from MBU by simply paying a certain sum of money without needing to attend classes.

Between 2011 and 2013, he paid 3,000 rupees (about S$55) every six months to the acquaintance who would pay MBU on Dutt’s behalf. He was given a degree certificate sometime in 2013, accompanied by various academic transcripts.

Bijoy was told that if he wanted a higher salary in Singapore, he would need a degree qualification. Through an agent, he obtained a forged MBU degree certificate for 40,000 rupees (about S$730).

Sometime in late 2014, Bijoy received a degree certificate dated Sep 28, 2008 along with academic transcripts showing that he had attended MBU between 2006 and 2008.

He then applied for the job in Singapore with the fake qualifications. Late last year, he made the false declaration again in a renewal application for his job as an assistant warehouse manager.

He was paid monthly salaries of between S$2,600 and S$3,000 while working in Singapore.

8 FOREIGNERS PROSECUTED A YEAR

MOM said it will continue to take firm measures to safeguard the integrity of the work pass framework.

False declarations of any sort is an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. The offence carries a fine of up to S$20,000, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both. 

Offenders will also have their work passes revoked and be permanently barred from employment in Singapore. 

In the last five years, MOM detected and permanently barred an average of 660 foreigners per year from employment in Singapore for submitting fake education qualifications in their work pass applications. Over the same period, an average of eight foreigners per year were prosecuted for such offences.

MOM said that employers have the primary responsibility to ensure the authenticity and quality of the academic qualifications of the candidates they wish to hire.

"While the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conducts risk-based checks on qualifications submitted for work pass applications, it is difficult to detect institutions such as Manav Bharti University which are approved by the foreign government’s authorities and issuing genuine degrees while selling fakes," a spokesperson said. 
 
"Nevertheless, MOM regularly reviews and strengthens measures to maintain the integrity of our work pass framework.  Firm action will be taken against individuals who attempt to circumvent the system."

As an additional safeguard, MOM also screens qualifications submitted in support of work pass applications through a database of institutions.

People submitting work pass applications that are of a higher risk, such as those supported by qualifications from institutions not found in the database or are picked up by data analytics, are required to provide verification proof from a third-party screening organisation. 

When MOM detects a false qualification, it rejects the application and permanently bars the foreigner from employment in Singapore.

MOM said it is reviewing its list of approved verification service providers and the need for more employers to submit verification proof of qualifications in support of work pass applications.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that MBU is an accredited institution set up by India’s government in 2009. MOM has since clarified that the university is a private institution accredited by India's government.

Source: CNA/hm(ac)

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