What Happens To Foreign Workers Who Commit A Crime In Singapore?

November 20, 2018
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Although we specialise in matters pertaining to corporate law and business issues, such as intellectual property and business structures, sometimes we have the opportunity to work outside of our usual scope – this includes cases where an errant employee of a client was in legal trouble and required legal representation.

Today, we are going to explore offences committed by foreigners who are visiting Singapore for business or are working here under an Employment Pass, and the effects on both the individual and their business.

There are many different passes that allow foreigners to work in Singapore, and without them, a foreigner is deemed as working illegally in the country. Most passes are tied to the individual’s employer who essentially becomes that person’s sponsor whilst they are living and working in Singapore.

As the saying goes, crime does not pay, and in the case of foreigners working or doing business in Singapore, this could not be truer.

Here’s a common scenario:

A client gives us a call to let us know that ‘something has happened’ and they need to see us urgently. We arrange for the meeting and learn that one of their colleagues/employees/business partners have gotten into trouble with the police, and now they need legal representation.

We speak to our new client to get the details of the case and learn that there is already an investigation in progress by the police. In the meantime, our client’s passport has been confiscated and they are unable to leave the country. They have to wait for police investigations to conclude before any new moves can be considered.

During this time, they have to cover legal fees, bail (if applicable), and any other fees pertaining to the legal process. When a judgment is received from the court, additional damages/taxes/fees may be incurred again.

Some of the cases we have dealt with include outrage of modesty, corruption, being a ‘money mule’, sedition, etc. What you see above is a very typical outline of what happens in the legal process – but what happens to the individual and their business?

Here are some of the possible consequences:

  • Your pass may be cancelled by your company, turning you into an illegal worker. If this happens, the police will apply for a special pass that allows you to stay in the country while the investigation takes place. This pass only allows you to stay in Singapore to facilitate the investigation and not for employment.
  • Post-investigations, you will be repatriated back to your home country if the outcome of the investigations is not in your favour.
  • You will not be able to earn an income, nor will you be able to run your business. This will eventually lead to no revenue/profit, and subsequently bankruptcy if you do not know how to mitigate such an outcome.
  • If found guilty of your alleged crime, you will need to accept any punishment that is meted out by the courts.

Singapore is known for its reputation of having a very strict rule of law. If someone commits a crime and gets caught, they will usually feel the full brunt of the law.

For foreigners, it is much more severe should you ever find yourself in such a situation. So do yourself a favour, equip yourself with more knowledge about the country you are in, and try not to test waters for no good reason.