Sng Boon Keng v Public Prosecutor

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeMavis Chionh Sze Chyi
Judgment Date14 February 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGDC 48
Citation[2001] SGDC 48
Published date19 September 2003


Grounds of Decision

1. The accused was tried before me on 6 charges under s 57(1)(e) read with s 57(1)(ii) and s 57(1A) of the Immigration Act (Cap 133). According to the prosecutions case, the accused employed 6 Bangladeshis as cleaners at the HDB blocks in Teban Gardens Road when he had reasonable grounds to believe that all 6 Bangladeshis had entered Singapore in contravention of section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act. Each Bangladeshi was alleged to have been employed for a period of several months; and the total time period involved stretched from sometime in 1998 to March 2000.

2. I convicted the accused of all 6 charges at the close of the trial and sentenced him to 8 months imprisonment as well as a fine of $1,000 (in default 1 months imprisonment) on each charge. Two of the imprisonment terms were ordered to run consecutively. As the accused has appealed against both conviction and sentence, I am setting out the grounds of my decision.

The background

3. By way of background, it may be stated that all 6 Bangladeshis were arrested at the Teban Gardens HDB estate, although at different points in time. The accused did not deny knowing the 6 Bangladeshis. Nor did he deny that they worked as cleaners at the Teban Gardens estate. His defence was that he was merely their supervisor; that he could not be regarded as their employer; and that the real employer was a man called "John Ee Toh".

4. The prosecution called a total of 11 witnesses, including all 6 Bangladeshi workers.

Evidence from PW1 Md Kalam

5. PW1 Md Kalam (Kalam) was the first of the Bangladeshi witnesses. Kalam testified that he was arrested at Teban Gardens on 15 September 1999. Prior to his arrest, he was working as a cleaner in Teban Gardens. He identified the other 5 Bangladeshi workers - Abdul Rahaman, Asad, Md Mizan, Md Ainal and Monir - as well as one other Bangladeshi (Minor) as his fellow cleaners at Teban Gardens.

6. According to Kalam, he came to Singapore and started working at Teban Gardens sometime in 1998. It was his agent, a Singaporean Chinese named "Nicholas", who brought him to Teban Gardens and handed him over to the accused. Kalam did not know what the accused and Nicholas spoke about on this occasion because the two men spoke to each other in English. On this occasion, apart from the accused, Kalam also met a Bangladeshi foreman named "Salauddin" who instructed him on the work he was supposed to do. The accused himself spoke to Kalam to tell him about his working hours (6 am to 5 pm) and his monthly salary ($600). The accused also showed Kalam a rubbish collection centre at Block 37A Teban Gardens, telling Kalam that this was where he could sleep. The accused did not at any stage ask Kalam for his work permit or his passport.

7. Kalam stayed at this rubbish collection centre whilst working in Teban Garden. He was responsible for cleaning a number of blocks in the estate. He regarded the accused as his employer because the accused had "given [him] salary and accepted [him] to work". His salary was paid in 2 lots of $300 each, every 15 days of the month. These payments were usually made at Block 37 Teban Gardens; and it was always the accused who would dole out these payments.

8. In addition, Kalam said, he saw the accused at Teban Gardens almost everyday. Both the accused and Salauddin checked on the cleaners work within the estate. There was also a third person, a Town Council officer named Razali, who sometimes came to check the cleaners work or to observe them being paid their salaries by the accused.

9. According to Kalam, he was at Teban Gardens for about 20 months, but 2 months during this period were spent working at another site in Holland Close. It was Nicholas who brought him to Holland Close to work. Kalam was not told why he had to go to Holland Close. He did not ask any questions, nor did the accused question him. At the end of the 2 months, Kalam returned to Teban Gardens to continue working there; and he was still working at Teban Gardens at the time of his arrest.

10. On 24 September 1999, Kalam pleaded guilty in court to a charge of illegally entering Singapore under section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act. He was sentenced to 1 months imprisonment and 4 strokes of the cane. In cross-examination, he added that although he had entered Singapore with a passport, the passport had not borne his real name. It transpired that "Md Kalam" was in fact not his real name, although this was the name which had appeared on the passport. His real name was "Md Shaifful Rahaman".

11. In cross-examination, Kalam also stated that he had never heard of "John Ee Toh". Nor did he know of a "David Tan" or of a company called "Comfort Maintenance & Construction". When shown PW8 Yip Yiu On in court, he said he had not seen Yip before.

Evidence from PW2 Snr SSgt Lau Teck Kiat

12. PW2 Senior Staff Sgt Lau Teck Kiat (Snr SSgt Lau) testified that he was the police officer who arrested Md Mizan, Monir and Md Ainal on 22 March 2000. The 3 Bangladeshis were arrested at the rubbish collection centre at Block 37. When arrested, they produced photocopied work permits and identified themselves to Snr SSgt Lau as "Md Shipon Hossain Khan", "Mohamed Younos A. Mojid Hawlader" and "Ismail Nuruzzaman" respectively. In court, when shown the Bangladeshi witnesses, Snr SSgt Lau was able to recall that Md Mizan was the one who had identified himself as "Md Shipon Hossain Khan". He could not recall which of the remaining two Bangladeshis had identified himself as "Mohamed Younos A. Mojid Hawlader" and which as "Ismail Nuruzzaman".

13. Snr SSgt Lau also testified that Md Mizan had volunteered the name of his employer during the arrest, but he could not remember the name given.

Evidence from PW3 Abdul Rahaman

14. PW3 Abdul Rahaman, the second Bangladeshi witness, testified that he came to Singapore in May 1999. He believed that he entered Singapore legally because this was what his agent - a Bangladeshi named Aktar Hossain - told him. He was unable to produce any passport as he said Aktar Hossain had taken his passport. Nor was he able to say on what basis he had entered Singapore, whether with a social visit pass or some other kind of permit.

15. According to Abdul Rahaman, he was met by Aktar Hossain when he first arrived at the airport in Singapore; and it was the latter who brought him to Teban Gardens about a month after his arrival. At Teban Gardens, Abdul Rahaman met a Bangladeshi "supervisor" named "Salauddin". Aktar and Salauddin then introduced him to the accused. Aktar told Abdul Rahaman that the accused would be his "boss"; that he would be working under the accused; and that the accused would pay him a monthly salary of $600. Abdul Rahaman was also told by Salauddin that this salary would be paid in two lots during the month and that he would be working in the "market area" at Teban Gardens.

16. Abdul Rahaman testified that as far as he was concerned, the accused was his "boss" because it was the accused who paid the workers salaries and who "would look into [their] needs". Abdul Rahaman worked as a cleaner at Teban Gardens for about 5 months, up to the time of his arrest. When arrested, he had only a photocopied work permit which had been given to him. This photocopied work permit (exhibit P7) was handed by the accused to Salauddin; and the accused was present when Salauddin passed the photocopy on to Abdul Rahaman. The photocopied permit carried the name "Hussain Alam Chan" instead of Abdul Rahamans name (although he was actually known as "Ratan" at Teban Gardens). His photograph was also not on this photocopied permit. He never saw the original of this photocopied permit. He was also never asked by the accused for his passport.

17. Abdul Rahaman also stated that during his period of employment at Teban Gardens, he slept at the rubbish collection centre in Block 37A with some other workers. Although it was Salauddin who had instructed him to sleep at the rubbish collection centre, the accused was also aware that this was where he slept, because the accused visited the rubbish collection centre from time to time, to give the Bangladeshis instructions about their work.

18. As to the payment of his salary, Abdul Rahaman stated that the $600 was paid in 2 lots of $300 each, on the 5th and 20th of each month. The payments, which were in cash, were made to the Bangladeshi workers by the accused at various locations in Teban Gardens Estate. As far as Abdul Rahaman could remember, he was not required to sign any acknowledgement slips when he received his salary. However, the Town Council officer Razali would usually be present to ensure that the workers were paid on time.

19. Asked whether he had heard of either "Nicholas" or "John Ee Toh", Abdul Rahaman stated that he had heard of both names but that he had never actually met either man. He had only once seen Nicholas "at a distance" at Teban Garden, talking to "some Chinese men". It was Salauddin who told him that the man in question was "Nicholas".

20. As with PW1 Kalam, Abdul Rahaman too pleaded guilty in court to a charge of illegally entering Singapore. He was convicted and sentenced for the offence.

Evidence from PW4 David Tan Sin Hee

21. PW4 David Tan Sin Hee (David Tan) testified that he was the general manager and major shareholder of a company known as IGM Services. IGM Services was the main contractor for the cleaning works in Ayer Rajah Zone, for the period 1 April 1998 to 30 March 2000. Ayer Rajah Zone comprised three main "pockets": Teban Gardens; West Coast; and Pandan Gardens. These works were in turn sub-contracted by IGM to a company called Comfort Maintenance Services. IGMs contract with Comfort was tendered in court as exhibit P8. This agreement was stated to take effect from 1 April 1998. The contract period was not specified, but Tan testified that it would have been a 2-year period. Usually, he said, contracts for Town...

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