Lim Chin Beng v Public Prosecutor

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeAudrey Lim Yoon Cheng
Judgment Date02 February 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGDC 36
Citation[2001] SGDC 36
Published date19 September 2003


Grounds of Decision

1. The accused was charged for employing two China nationals as hostesses, namely Xiu Yu Chun and Zhang Li Qing, at Athens Music Centre, when they had entered Singapore without being in possession of a visit pass, and thereby committing the offences under s 57(1)(e) of the Immigration Act (Cap 133)(the Act).

2. At the close of the trial, I convicted the accused on both charges and sentenced him to seven months imprisonment on each charge, both terms to run concurrently. The accused, being dissatisfied, appealed against both conviction and sentence.

The prosecutions case

Testimony of PW1 SSgt Wong Vee Kong (SSgt Wong)

3. On 23 September 1999, at about 9.09 pm, SSgt Wong and a party of officers went to Athens Music Centre ("the lounge") located at 145A Jalan Besar. He noticed two female Chinese sitting by themselves in Room 4, one of the KTV rooms. At that time, they were not doing anything in the room. When queried, they were unable to produce any valid documents, but admitted that they were working there as hostesses and earned their living through tips given by customers. They were arrested and namecards of the lounge, found in their handbags, were seized from them. The two female Chinese were subsequently identified as Wu Yu Chun and Zhang Li Qing. An arrest report (exhibit P3) was lodged by SSgt Wong.

Testimony of PW2 Zhang Li Qing (Zhang)

4. On the day of her arrest, Zhang had gone to the lounge with Wu Yu Chun (Wu), the other illegal immigrant, and were waiting for customers to arrive at the lounge. She first came to know of Athens Music Centre when her friend Xiao Fang brought her there. Xiao Fang spoke to the accused, Lim, and told him that Zhang wished to work there. Lim agreed to this. However, Zhang explained that she was not in the presence of Lim when the latter told Xiao Fang that Zhang could work at the lounge.

5. Prior to her arrest, Zhang had been working there for over 10 days and her job was to talk to customers and drink with them. Her working hours were around 8 pm or 9 pm to about 2 am. She earned her living through tips given by the customers at the lounge, and did not receive any salary from Lim. She addressed Lim as the boss and Lim addressed her as Xiao Hua.

6. As Zhang did not have a work permit to work there, she had to obtain a drink voucher whenever she went to the lounge. This voucher was a receipt for drinks ordered (see exhibit D1). However she did not order nor pay for any drinks, and the voucher was meant to be shown to the police or an inspector in the event that an inspection or raid was conducted, to show that she was a customer of the lounge. Zhang explained that she was not a customer and the drink vouchers were to conceal her identity as an employee of the lounge. Although Zhang collected a voucher on the day of her arrest (exhibit D1), she did not order or buy any drinks. When asked by defence counsel whether she knew one Wong Leung Wai, Zhang said that she did not recognise him and could not recall if she had ever seen him at the lounge.

7. On 25 September 1999, she was convicted for entering Singapore without a valid pass and sentenced to one months imprisonment and a fine of $2,000.

Testimony of PW3 Wu Yu Chun (Wu)

8. Wu was arrested together with Zhang on 23 September 1999. She had gone there that night to work. She first knew of Athens Music Lounge through another China national, Ah Ying. Prior to her arrest, she had been working there for over 10 days. Her working hours were from 9 pm to 12 midnight. On her first visit to the lounge, she met Lim who agreed to employ her. He informed her that she was to accompany the customers, talk with them and pour drinks. He addressed her as Xiao Ling. When Wu asked Lim about her remuneration, Lim told her that she would not be paid a salary, but would obtain tips from customers at the lounge.


Wu was given a drink voucher everyday at the bar counter when she came to work (similar to the ones given to Zhang). However, she did not know the purpose of the vouchers, as she did not pay for any of the drinks reflected on the vouchers. Similarly on the day when she was arrested, she did not order any drinks but was given a voucher by someone at the bar counter (exhibit D2) when she arrived. She confirmed that she was in Room 4 that night with Zhang, but denied that she was a customer of the lounge, as she had gone there to work. When asked whether she had seen Wong Leung Wai before, Zhang said that she did not know him

10. On 25 September 1999, she was convicted of a charge of entering Singapore without a valid pass and was sentenced to one months imprisonment and fined $2,000.

Testimony of PW4 Sgt Steven Tan Joo Song (Sgt Tan)

11. On 24 September 1999, Sgt Tan commenced investigations into the case, which led to the charges and convictions against Zhang and Wu. Lim was subsequently arrested on 22 August 2000, which was about one year later, as the authorities had difficulty locating him. Zhang and Wu each had a bill or drink voucher (exhibits D1 and D2) when they were arrested. When Lim was called for investigations, he produced D1 and D2. Sgt Tan took a photocopy of them (see exhibits P5 and P6) and returned D1 and D2 to Lim. Sgt Tan also confirmed that two namecards from Athens Music Lounge were seized from Zhang and Wu on the day of their arrest.

The defences case

12. At the close of the prosecution case, the defence did not make any submissions of no case to answer. I found that a prima facie case had been established according to the Hua Tua Tau test. Accordingly I called the accused for his defence. The accused elected to give evidence on oath, and to call one other witness, namely Wong Leung Wai.

Testimony of DW1 Lim Chin Beng (Lim)

13. Athens Music Lounge belonged to Lims good friend, Richard Lim (Richard). Sometime in January 1999, Richard asked Lim to help him run the lounge, and the latter agreed to do so from May 1999 to February 2000 when the business was closed down. During this time, Lim acted as his consultant and did most of the counter work. He was also in charge of the purchase and sale of the daily liquor. However, he was not registered as a proprietor of the business, as he was only a consultant and Richard was the actual owner.

14. At the time of the trial, Lim did not know of Richards whereabouts, as the latter was not in Singapore. Lim last spoke to Richard in June 1999, when Lim put some $20,000 into the business as a "loan" to Richard. However, Richard did not repay this loan. Later, Lim said that this was not in actual fact a loan, but a contribution and an investment, and thus he had a one-third share in the lounge.

15. Although Lim had the authority to employ workers including hostesses, he would never employ China nationals as they caused a lot of trouble. For instance, they would take away his customers, sleep with them and discourage them from patronising Lims lounge, telling the customers that they could entertain them elsewhere. Hence, when Zhang and Wu approached Lim for employment, he refused.

16. Lim said that Zhang and Wu were brought to the lounge by Lims customers when they patronized the lounge. Whenever the customers were away, Zhang and Wu would nevertheless visit the lounge themselves as they liked the place. Lim did not check their status as it would have been rude to do so, since they were his customers. However, he knew that they were China nationals, and they came to the lounge about one to three times a week. Moreover, as Zhang and Wu liked the lounge, they would inform other China girls who would then similarly patronise the lounge. Lim made it clear to them that they were not hired by the lounge, but could come anytime they wanted, so long as they paid for their drinks. He did not turn them away, as they gave business to the lounge.

17. Lim denied that he had told Xiao Fang that Zhang could work at the lounge. According to Lim, Xiao Fang was Richards friend, and a China national. However, Lim had never spoken to her. Lim also denied that Wu had ever met him for an interview for a job, and that no salaries were ever discussed.

18. According to Lim, Zhang and Wu did not approach him for a job directly, but through a customer-friend. They had asked this customer-friend to speak to Lim about employment but Lim did not agree to employ them. Initially when asked for the name of this friend, Lim said that he could not remember, as it was impossible to say which customers were his friends. However, he later named these friends who had brought Zhang and Wu to the lounge. In addition, Lim said that it was his previous manager, Michael Toh, through whom Zhang and Wu had approached to ask Lim for a job, but Lim had refused.

19. On the night of the police raid, Lim went to the lounge at around 8.30 pm, but did not see Zhang and Wu. He then left the lounge and was later informed by Wong Leung Wai (Wong) that the police had raided the place. Wong also informed him that on that night, Zhang and Wu were in one of the KTV rooms singing, when they were arrested. Wong assisted Lim in the business by opening the lounge daily, delivering liquor to the lounge and helping Lim at the bar counter.

20. Lim confirmed that D1 and D2 were the receipts issued to Zhang and Wu on the night of their arrest, as they were drinking and singing in the KTV room. The two bills were paid. When shown P5 and P6, Lim admitted that although they were the same, in that P5 and P6 were photocopies of D1 and D2, however no room number was reflected on P5 and P6, whereas it was reflected on D1 and D2. Lim explained that when D1 and D2 were shown to the police, Lim was asked which room Zhang and Wu were in that night, and Lim had told them that they were in Room 4. When Lim went back home, he wrote the room number on D1 and D2 to remind him of the incident, so that he could later refresh his memory.

21. Lim said that he had used a blue pen to write the...

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