Singapore

MOM: 33 foreigners caught with fake certs between 2016 and 2018

Between 2016 and 2018, the Ministry of Manpower nabbed 33 foreigners for submitting forged certificates in connection with work pass applications.

An MOM spokesman told The New Paper this on Friday (Feb 1).

TNP understands most were prosecuted while some were given stern warnings.

The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment of up to two years, or both per charge.

And if investigations also reveal the employer was involved in the deception, MOM will also prosecute the employer.

Fake certificates and credentials have come into the limelight following the case of Mikhy Farrera Brochez, 34, who leaked the personal details of 14,200 people on the HIV registry.

The MOM spokesman told TNP that before making an application for an Employment Pass (EP), the employer would have already evaluated the candidate, including his qualifications. 

MOM said most employers take this role seriously, as they also have an interest to ensure that their selection and recruitment of foreigners is rigorous.

MOM’s spokesman added the ministry also takes a risk-based approach by conducting additional checks on selected applications.

He said MOM also receives reports from employers who discover that they have been misled, only after the EP holder has arrived.

In all of these cases, the EP holder is investigated for breach of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

MOM said in the case of Brochez, the offence of using forged certificates was uncovered during the course of police investigation.

On March 1 2017, Brochez was convicted under the Penal Code for cheating and forgery offences, as well as under the Misuse of Drugs Act for possession of drugs. He was sentenced to a total of 28 months’ imprisonment.

The submission of forged academic credentials is also punishable under the offence of using a forged document or electronic record under Section 471 of the Penal Code. This applies to both foreign and local employees. 

Those convicted can be jailed up to four years, fined, or both.

TNP understands that Brochez was not charged under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act as he was already being charged for the Penal Code offences.

In 2015, TNP reported that 36 foreign employees were successfully prosecuted by MOM in 2014 for providing falsified documents. 

This was a drop from the 121 foreigners convicted of the offence and barred from working here between 2012 and 2013.

MOM had amended the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act in 2012 and made the falsification of academic qualifications to the Controller of Work Passes a standalone offence with stiffer penalties.

Ms Linda Teo, country manager, ManpowerGroup Singapore, told TNP : "Checking a submitted certificate against the original is one of the most basic checks – but is inadequate for senior hires."

She added: “For rank-and-file employees, a reference check is also necessary. For senior-level candidates and professionals, employers need to go a step further, conducting thorough background and reference checks due to the nature of the roles.”

Referring to Brochez, political watcher and SMU law don, Eugene Tan, told TNP: “Sure, he might have had help, but given the roles and responsibilities he was entrusted with – educator and child psychologist – it does raise the question of whether checks (across the sectors) were robust and thorough enough.”

Senior human resource consultant, Mr Martin Daniel of HRMatters21,said: “In schools, especially for positions of influence like lecturers, the due diligence has to be done to ensure that not only is the candidate qualified, he must be clean.”

Ms Teo added one lesson for employers from this incident is to not be complacent.

She said: “They should not immediately assume the candidate’s credentials are valid and cleared by the previous employers and skip the checks.”

COURT & CRIME