The Singapore sling-back

Budding jobseekers, conned by agency, return after failing to secure employment

Scam: Tenzin Dorji, the proprietor of Tenzu Overseas Employment Agent (TOEA), sent 36 Bhutanese jobseekers to Singapore last year.  Most of them have now returned, because they could not get any job in Singapore, and their tourist visa expired.

After taking millions of Ngultrum from the clients, Tenzin Dorji quietly disappeared.  More than 50 people have been trying to contact him.

Kesang, 22, cancelled her continuing education and took a loan.  She paid Nu 410,000 to Tenzin Dorji to go to Singapore to work.

“Only when I got to Singapore did I realise that I was cheated,” said Kesang.

Kesang and other six jobseekers left for Singapore on November 26, 2014.  Her group was the third Tenzu sent to Singapore.

“When we landed in Singapore, we found 30 Bhutanese, who were struggling without job,” said Kesang. “We survived on Maggi and zow.”

Clients were promised a descent job with a monthly salary of SGD 1,800 with free food and accommodation.

Jamtsho and five other Bhutanese were the last group that the agent sent to Singapore.  Two of them left their jobs, and one sold his shop and a car to pay Tenzu.  Together, the group made a payment of more than one million ngultrums.

Once in Singapore, Jamtsho tricked Tenzin Dorji to come to Singapore by telling him that a Singaporean company was willing to sign an employment contract with Tenzin Dorji. Only then did Tenzin Dorji show up. It was his first time in Singapore.

“He hadn’t been to Singapore before. There was nothing arranged or worked out for our employment,” said Jamtsho.

Tenzin Dorji also illegally sent a group of Bhutanese jobseekers to Macau in Hongkong September last year.  A 30-year old man from Thimphu is one of the victims.  He paid Nu 400,000 as consultancy fee.  The man and his friend returned home after two weeks in Macau.  There was no job for them there.  They were promised a monthly salary of USD 2,200 with free food and accommodation.

“I sold my car and borrowed money to go to Macau. Turned out everything was a lie,” said the man, who did not wish to be named.  He was interviewed on Skype by a man, who claimed to be a human resource officer in one of the companies in Macau.

TOEA had its office in Changbangdu, Thimphu.

Tenzin Dorji also cheated the owner of the building, where TOEA had its office.  The house owner, whose name is also Tenzin Dorji, paid TOEA USD 500 consultancy fee to go to Canada.  Ten other Bhutanese paid TOEA USD 1,520 each for visas.

“I sat for three rounds of interview on Skype.  There was no way to know I was being cheated,” said Tenzin Dorji, who seized three desktops and a sofa set from the TOEA office because the office failed to pay two months’ rent.

Following complaints from the jobseekers, the labour ministry on January 28 suspended the agent for breaching the rules, and issued a notification to refund the money collected from the clients.

The ministry officials said TOEA had approval to take Bhutanese jobseekers only to Malaysia, where he recruited 13 Bhutanese.  Sources said that TOEA also attempted to take Bhutanese job seekers to South Korea.

Tshewang Rinchen, labour ministry’s programme officer for overseas employment unit, said agents should obtain a legal agreement from the overseas counterparts, with authentication letter from chamber of commerce or from the government concerned.

If the agreement is found to be legitimate, the labour ministry issues an undertaking letter, on which the agents have to agree with the terms and conditions of overseas counterpart.

If the people are sent abroad through the ministry, the officials concerned do all the necessary documentation and authentication works.

But those Bhutanese, who went to Singapore and Macau, and processed for Canada and South Korea, had done through the private agent on their own.

Tshewang Rinchen said that many Bhutanese try to go abroad without adequate knowledge and information. “They come to us only when they are in trouble.”

The clients have taken the matter to court

By Tenzin Namgyel

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