Gay Teow Hong v Public Prosecutor

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeHoo Sheau Peng
Judgment Date23 January 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGDC 23
Citation[2001] SGDC 23
Published date19 September 2003


Grounds of Decision

The appellant was charged that from 6 to 16 December 1999, at a business known as Gayal Engineering and Marketing (Gayal), located at Block 9005 Tampines Street 93 #04-214, Singapore, he employed as a general worker one Aye Aye Win, a Mynamar national who had overstayed in Singapore contrary to s 15(1) of the Immigration Act (Cap 133) (the Act), when he had reasonable grounds to believe that she had overstayed in Singapore. The offence was one under s 57(1)(e) and punishable under s 57(1)(ii) of the Act. The appellant claimed trial to the charge. At the end of the trial, I convicted him of the offence, and sentenced him to seven months imprisonment. These are my reasons.

Prosecution case

(i) Zaina Bte Abdul Rahim (PW1)

2. Zaina Bte Abdul Rahim (Zaina) used to be an employment inspector with the Ministry of Manpower. At the time of the trial, she had left the job. On 16 December 1999, in the capacity as employment inspector, she, along with two other colleagues, went to inspect a certain factory at Block 90005 in Tampines (the premises). Zaina could see paper there. They checked on two women in the premises who were folding paper. Zaina asked if they had any valid identification documents with them. One of them was a Singaporean who produced her identity card. The other person could not produce any documents at all. The officers placed the second person under arrest within the premises, and took her to the van.

3. When the officers interrogated the second person in English, she said she was from Myanmar, but was unable to produce any documents. She explained that her documents were with an agent in Myanmar. She was unable to retrieve them. Part of this conversation took place in the van.

4. In court, Zaina could recognise the Myanmar national, but not the Singaporean woman. Zaina could not recall the exact address of the premises. She knew the factory was in an industrial park in the Tampines area, and was on the fourth floor. She also could not remember the name of the business.

5. In cross-examination, Zaina said that she could tell that the Myanmar woman was a foreigner from the way the Myanmar woman spoke. Zaina remembered that the two women were folding paper, but could not recall the size of the paper. The Myanmar woman told Zaina she was helping out at the premises. In re-examination, Zaina said that she did not seize any paper as evidence. It was not part of her job as an arresting officer to do so.

(ii) Aye Aye Win (PW2)

6. On 31 July 1999, Aye Aye Win arrived in Singapore from Myanmar by air. She had a passport, and was given a two-week pass to stay in Singapore. She came to look for work through the arrangement of an agent in Myanmar. She paid the agent about 500,000 kyats. A representative of the agent met her at the airport. After she arrived, she stayed in one of her friend's house in Tampines. She did not have permanent jobs. But sometimes, she worked part-time. She cleaned a house once a week for two months. After that, she was told not to go anymore.

7. On 16 December 1999, Aye Aye Win was working at a calendar factory. Her boss was the appellant, but she did not know his name. She started work for him on 6 December 1999. One of her acquaintances asked her go to ask if there was a part-time job. On 4 December 1999, she went to the fourth storey of Block 9005 in Tampines for an interview with the appellant.

8. The appellant said she was to go there temporarily for training or temporarily. Aye Aye Win could not understand fully what the appellant said. Aye Aye Win told the appellant she was from Myanmar. The appellant did not ask Aye Aye Win for her passport or work permit. She also did not show any documents to him. He did not ask about her immigration status. The appellant agreed to pay her $3.50 an hour. The understanding was that payment was due every two weeks.

9. Aye Aye Win was staying in the vicinity of Bedok Reservoir at that time. She took bus number 65 to work and back. She worked either six, eight or 10 hours a day. She started work at 9 am each day. Aye Aye Win was a general worker. Sometimes, she would cut plastic, move things or pack things. The appellant would come in after 10 am or 11 am. He worked from Mondays to Saturdays.

10. Four days before the arrest, a Singaporean lady in her fifties, identified to be one Chong Sow Ying (Mdm Chong) also started work at the premises. Aye Aye Win called Mdm Chong Auntie. They communicated in English, usually exchanging greetings. At the time of the arrest, Aye Aye Win had not received any money yet.

11. Aye Aye Win did not know who was in charge of running the factory. At first, the appellant gave her instructions. Later, Mdm Chong also gave her instructions. Aye Aye Win said that the appellant owned a car. Once, she put packages of calenders into his car. The appellant asked her to do this. The car was grey in colour, and was old and small.

12. On 16 December 1999, at about 10 am, eight to 10 persons went to the premises to arrest Mdm Chong and Aye Aye Win. They asked Aye Aye Win questions, and asked for her identity card. As she could not show it, they arrested her. They asked her where she was from, and she replied that she was from Myanmar. Subsequently, Aye Aye Win was charged in court for overstaying. Upon her conviction, she was sentenced to one month's imprisonment and a fine of $2,500.

13. In cross-examination, Aye Aye Win said that 500,000 kyats was about $2,500. After she came to Singapore, her passport was taken away by the agent. At the time of the arrest, she did not have her passport with her. Her duties at the factory included plastic moulding, plastic cutting and packing. When she was arrested, she was cutting plastic with scissors. Aye Aye Win said that she did not tell Zaina she was helping the appellant. She understood Zaina to have asked if she was working. So she replied yes.

14. For the interview, Aye Aye Win went to the premises at 6 pm. She spoke to the appellant in English. The appellant asked about her nationality, and she said she was from Myanmar. She disagreed that the accused did not ask her about her nationality.

15. Aye Aye Win knew the dates she worked for the appellant because he asked her to write down on a calendar in the factory the date she started work. After that, she also had to write down the times she went to work and left work. Mdm Chong went to work about four days before they were arrested. Aye Aye Win did not have the key to the premises. The appellant gave her training for the job. When she worked for six hours, she finished work at 4 pm. When she worked for 10 hours, she finished work at 8 pm. She disagreed that the factory closed at 5 pm.

16. Aye Aye Win disagreed that she was in the premises only four days before she was arrested, and that the appellant did not employer her. She told Zaina she was working for the appellant. She said the same at the police station. She also disagreed that the appellant did not pay her any salary because he did not employ her. Rather, it was because she had not completed two weeks of work.

17. It was put to Aye Aye Win that she was at the premises on three days from 9 am to 12 pm, and on the fourth day she was arrested. She did not work for six hours, eight hours or 10 hours as claimed. She was at the premises looking for a job, but the appellant did not employ her. She disagreed, but stated that on some days, she only worked for four hours. She said that she would not know whether the appellant was in the business of producing calenders. She was not sure if she was working on diaries or calendars; the products looked like calenders. Aye Aye Win was released from prison on 20 January 2000.

18. In re-examination, Aye Aye Win was asked to describe what exactly she had to do in relation to the calenders. She said she had as working tools the following items, namely, scissors, a machine for printing, plastic sheets of different colours, glue, paper knife and pens. For example, when she had a piece of paper with the January printed on it, she would put the paper into the machine and put coloured plastic onto the word January. It was a lamination process. When she arrived at the premises at 9 am, she had to wait for the appellant outside. The appellant asked her to go at 9 am as the starting hour was 9 am. Aye Aye Win was not sure of the name of the business she worked for.

(iii) Chua Chee San (PW3)

19. Chua Chee San (Chua), the investigation officer, tendered the results of a search from the Registry of Companies and Business (RCB) which showed that the appellant was the sole proprietor of Gayal. The document was admitted and marked Exh P2. Chua was not sure of the exact business address of the business.

Close of prosecution case

20. With that, the prosecution closed its case. The prosecution applied to delete the exact address from the charge as none of the prosecution witnesses were able to state the exact address of the business. Instead, the charge would read that the offence took place in Tampines. There was no objection from the defence, and I granted the application. Defence counsel did not make any submissions of no case to answer. Being satisfied from Aye Aye Wins testimony that there was some evidence on all the elements of the charge, I called for the defence.

Defence case

i. Gay Teow Hong

21. The appellant confirmed that he was the sole proprietor of Gayal. The business supported the printing industry by doing part of the process of the making of diaries. There were two production machines in the premises.

22. Basically, the appellant ran a one-man show. He had one worker, Mdm Chong, who helped with the production. She was on medical leave from 29 November to 7 December 1999. She was on further medical leave from 8 to 10 December 1999. She returned to work on 13 December 1999, which was a Monday.

23. During Mdm Chongs absence, the appellants duties included visiting customers,...

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