Singaporean celebrity Jamie Teo plead guilty on February 4 to failing to prevent Twelve Cupcakes from underpaying foreign staff while the company was under her and her ex-husband’s management from 2013 to 2016.
According to a report from Asia One, Teo “pleaded guilty to 10 counts of failing to prevent Twelve Cupcakes from underpaying the workers – offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.”
She and ex-DJ Daniel Ong founded Twelve Cupcakes in 2011 but sold the company to Kolkata-based company Dhunseri Group for $2.5 million in 2016.
They divorced that same year.
What happened to the ex-employees of Twelve Cupcakes?
According to the same report, Teo and Ong jointly decided to hire foreign workers in 2012. Seven of these workers were underpaid between 2013 and 2016. Four of these employees were service executives, two sales executives, and a pastry chef.
The report mentioned that the pastry chef was promised a salary of $2,300 in 2014, but received only $1,600. That period started a trend that resulted in even lower pay for the worker, who did not receive $2,300 monthly from then to mid 2016. The other foreign workers did not received the pay they were promised.
The current owner of Twelve Cupcakes was convicted separately, and was fined on January 12 amounting to $119,500. Seven of its foreign workers also received salaries much less than what they were supposed to get, with one worker only receiving half their wages on certain occasions. Dhunseri Group was convicted on December 10, 2020, of 15 counts of underpaying employees in 2017 and 2018.
A previous report by Alvinology stated that the current owner of Twelve Cupcakes referred to the practice of the original owners of underpaying employees as their defense in their own case.
While Teo plead guilty to ten counts and was facing fourteen other charges pertaining to underpaying employees, Ong was also slapped with 24 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
An earlier report from Asia One also mentioned that there were allegations that some workers were not paud for periods between 2012 nd 2013.
Jaime Teo’s defense
The same report from Asia One mentioned that her attorney said Teo did not deal directly with the company’s human resource, administration, operation, and business development. Her defense lawyer stressed that she was mostly involved in product development and marketing.
Allegations of a cover-up
The new owners also allegedly tried to conceal the violations of the law, and actually made up the missing salary payments to the workers–only to tell them they had to return a portion to the company in cash.
The Dhunseri Group pleaded guilty to fifteen charges of underpaying the employees of the business.
The company wanted bank records to show that the company remitted the correct amount. But employees had to return a part of their pay so the final amount they received would be the reduced salary.
Prosecutors in the case against the current owners of the bakery said that if the practices and underpayment weren’t discovered, the labor exploitation would have continued.