Director loses appeal against prison sentence for misdeclaring foreign workers' salaries

High Court says he was 'clearly conscious of his false declarations' to MOM

Director loses appeal against prison sentence for misdeclaring foreign workers' salaries

The High Court of Singapore recently dealt with an employer’s appeal against his prison sentence for excessively misdeclaring the salaries of his foreign employees.

The appellant, Jayant Jivan Golani, appealed against his sentences imposed by a Principal District Judge (PDJ) upon his plea of guilt to various charges relating to the employment of foreign manpower.

Gamma Services Pte Ltd, led by Golani as director, operated restaurants as its primary business activity. However, his actions regarding the salaries of foreign employees raised legal concerns.

Employer misrepresented salaries

To secure employment passes for foreign employees, the Golani submitted Declaration Forms to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), stating a fixed monthly salary of $7,250 for each foreign employee. However, the reality differed significantly.

According to records, although the declared amount was credited to the employees' bank accounts, they were instructed to withdraw $5,520 monthly, leaving them with only $1,730 as their actual salary, a substantial 76.14% lower than the declared amount.

Following an investigation, Golani faced prosecution under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) and the Employment Act (EA). He pleaded guilty to 22 charges, including False Declaration Charges under EFMA for submitting false statements to MOM and Deduction Charges under EA for failing to pay employees their rightful salary.

The PDJ imposed a sentence of six weeks' imprisonment for each False Declaration Charge and a $3,000 fine (or 10 days' imprisonment) for each Deduction Charge. The total sentence was six weeks' imprisonment and a $60,000 fine.

Golani appealed the custodial sentence, arguing that his actions were “negligent” rather than “reckless,” warranting a high fine instead of imprisonment.

Employer’s appeal against imprisonment

The crux of the appeal rested on whether the Golani's actions met the threshold for imprisonment. While he did not dispute the fines, he contended that his conduct amounted to negligence, not recklessness, justifying a monetary penalty rather than incarceration.

The appeal highlighted the fine line between negligence and recklessness in cases of salary misrepresentation. Despite acknowledging guilt, he sought to mitigate his sentence, emphasizing his alleged lack of intent to deceive.

The High Court said that the PDJ did not commit an error of fact when it found that Golani “was clearly conscious of his false declarations to MOM,” despite his argument that the Declaration Forms did not provide any link or explanation to MOM’s definitions of “fixed monthly salary”, “basic monthly salary” and “fixed monthly allowance.”

It did not accept that Golani “made the declarations in accordance with his understanding of those terms as a layman.”

“The responsibility was on [him] to check on the necessary and relevant information to be provided to MOM before submitting the declaration,” the court said.

Thus, it said that the previous court’s decision was not excessive or unreasonable. It then dismissed his appeal.

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