Jail, fine for trio over fatal 2014 Geylang fire
Trio used apartment as illegal foreign worker dorm
To maximise profit, a property owner and two men erected partitions in a Geylang apartment to create more rooms, converting the unit into an illegal foreign workers' dormitory - with fatal consequences.
Four Malaysian workers who lived in the unit in Lorong 4 Geylang died of smoke inhalation after a fire broke out there on Dec 6, 2014.
Five other people living in the same three-storey building and two firefighters were injured in the blaze. According to earlier news reports, the incident was then Singapore's worst fire in 10 years.
Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Wong Kok Weng, Soh Weiqi and Jane Lim stated in their submissions that this was the first case of its kind in which deaths had occurred in an illegal workers' dormitory.
After an eight-day trial, property owner Chiang Teck Fung, 60, was sentenced yesterday to 10 months' jail and a fine of $50,000.
The other two men, Khah Tee Meng, 54, and Ong Kah Sim, 67, were each sentenced to a year and a month's jail. The pair were also fined $60,000 each.
The three men were each convicted of two charges - an offence under the Fire Safety Act and another under the Planning Act involving the development of land without planning permission.
Requirements for workers' dormitories would include fire alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and adequate exits.
"Not only was this approval not obtained by any of the three accused persons, the partitions were made of combustible materials and their erection also affected the means of escape," the DPP said.
Court documents stated that Chiang invited Khah to take up the tenancy of the property in 2014. Khah and Ong then agreed to take part in a plan in which Khah was the official tenant.
The DPPs' submissions stated: "The venture between Ong and Khah was that Ong would finance the cost of renting the premises and the renovation works (as well as) source for tenants... Khah would manage the housekeeping of the premises. Khah was also to receive a percentage of the profits from the venture."
Chiang and Khah entered into a tenancy agreement in August that year.
With Chiang's approval, Khah erected partitions to increase the number of rooms from five to 10.
Twenty-two foreign workers as well as two Singaporeans later moved into the property where a fire broke out in the wee hours of Dec 6 that year.
Chiang, Khah and Ong are now out on bail of $15,000 each and must surrender themselves at the State Courts on March 4 to begin serving their sentences.