Singapore

Jaime Teo to be sentenced in March over Twelve Cupcakes wages

Entertainment artist Jaime Teo Chai-lin will be sentenced next month for failing to prevent Twelve Cupcakes, a homegrown confectionery chain that she co-founded, from underpaying its foreign staff.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda yesterday adjourned the case to March 9 after hearing arguments from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutor and Teo's legal team.

The former model pleaded guilty on Feb 4 to 10 counts of the offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Another 14 charges will be considered during sentencing.

MOM prosecutor Maximilian Chew yesterday urged the court to fine Teo $80,000, stressing that such offences were difficult to detect and she had not made restitution.

Teo, 43, founded the firm in 2011 with her then husband - former radio DJ Daniel Ong Ming Yu, 45. They employed foreign workers in 2012.

Between 2013 and 2016, the firm underpaid the wages of seven staffers - four customer service executives, two sales executives and a pastry chef.

The pastry chef, who was supposed to be paid $2,300 a month in mid-2014, received $1,600 instead.

The chef continued collecting lower salaries from that time until mid-2016.

The other six also received less money than they were supposed to.

The salary arrears totalling $98,900, during the years when the couple owned the company, remain outstanding to date. They sold it to Kolkata-based company Dhunseri Group for $2.5 million in 2016.

Teo's lawyers, Mr Sunil Sudheesan and Ms Diana Ngiam, asked for a fine of $20,000.

The lawyers said their client never played a decision-making role in the human resource (HR) aspect of the business when she was a director of Twelve Cupcakes.

LACK OF KNOWLEDGE

They said Teo did not know at the time there were differences between the declared salary amounts in the employment contracts and the actual sums paid to the workers.

"Our client's lack of knowledge in the HR aspects of the company meant that (she) regrettably did not detect and intervene to correct the improprieties," said the lawyers.

Ong, who is facing 24 charges under the Act, had his case adjourned to March 2.

Twelve Cupcakes, under Dhunseri Group, was convicted on Dec 10 last year on 15 counts of underpaying seven foreign employees in 2017 and 2018. It was fined $119,500 on Jan 12.

For each charge under the Act, an offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000. - THE STRAITS TIMES

COURT & CRIME