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Twelve Cupcakes co-founder Daniel Ong fined S$65,000 for underpaying foreign employees over 3 years

SINGAPORE — Former radio deejay Daniel Ong Ming Ru, who founded homegrown bakery chain Twelve Cupcakes with his ex-wife Jaime Teo, was on Friday (May 21) fined S$65,000 for his role in underpaying seven foreign employees for more than three years.

Twelve Cupcakes co-founder Daniel Ong fined S$65,000 for underpaying foreign employees over 3 years

Daniel Ong at the State Courts on May 21, 2021.

  • Daniel Ong, also a former radio deejay, pleaded guilty to his offences
  • His ex-wife Jaime Teo was also earlier fined the same amount
  • They had set up Twelve Cupcakes together before selling it in 2017 and getting divorced
  • Ong later wrote on Instagram that he had “signed many documents without a second glance” and let a third-party agency handle the paperwork

 

SINGAPORE — Former radio deejay Daniel Ong Ming Ru, who founded homegrown bakery chain Twelve Cupcakes with his ex-wife Jaime Teo, was on Friday (May 21) fined S$65,000 for his role in underpaying seven foreign employees for more than three years.

The employees are still owed S$98,900 and no reimbursement has been made.

Teo, a former actress, was similarly fined S$65,000 in March. 

The couple, who divorced in 2016 after nine years together, started Twelve Cupcakes in 2011 before selling it to Indian tea company Dhunseri Group for S$2.5 million in 2017.

The bakery chain was in January fined S$119,500 for underpaying eight foreign employees from 2017 to 2019.

Some of the workers who were underpaid on Teo and Ong’s watch continued to be underpaid under the bakery’s new owner.

On Friday, Ong pleaded guilty to 10 charges of flouting rules under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, including failing to pay the chain’s foreign employees their fixed monthly wages on time.

As one of the firm’s directors and main decision-makers, he committed the crimes between September 2012 and December 2016.

The couple was responsible for their employees’ wages and were signatories of the company’s account.

They jointly decided in 2012 to hire foreign employees to expand their business and agreed on the relevant salary ranges.

The underpaid employees were supposed to be paid between S$2,000 and S$2,600 a month, but consistently received less than that. 

Four of them were customer service executives, two were sales executives and one was a pastry chef.

One of the sales executives was meant to be paid S$2,600 each month, but received S$1,200 or S$1,400 over a year or so.

All of them held S Passes, which are issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to mid-level and skilled foreign workers who earn at least S$2,500 monthly.

MOM’s prosecutor Maximilian Chew sought the fine imposed, saying that the ministry uncovered the offences only in December 2018. 

“It was partly fortuitous, as the firm continued the illegal practices under its new management. Otherwise, (Ong) would have likely gotten off scot-free,” he added.

Ong’s lawyer Kalaithasan Karuppaya said that his client fully understood his mistakes and pledged not to repeat them.

Mr Kalaithasan said that Twelve Cupcakes was Ong’s first venture and he was “learning things” as a first-time director.

The lawyer added: “He is restarting his life and fighting for his family. His previous business ventures suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulted in closures.” 

Ong, who remarried last year, is expecting a child in August and recently opened a steakhouse in Serangoon Gardens.

For each charge of breaching foreign work-pass rules, Ong could have been fined up to S$10,000 or jailed up to a year, or given both penalties.

Ong later wrote on his Instagram page that he had left human resource and accounting matters to others “as those were not my strengths”, focusing on business development and building the brand instead.

He added that he “signed many documents without a second glance” and let a third-party agency handle the paperwork.

“As far as I knew back then, we paid our employees what was agreed with them… Regardless, I’m sorry for negligence and I’ve definitely learnt from this episode,” he wrote.

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Twelve Cupcakes crime court salary employees

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