Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

Singapore’s Mustafa Centre Shopping Complex Faces Probe for Alleged Employment Violations

Mustafa Centre at Little India in Singapore.

Mustafa Centre, the landmark shopping complex in Singapore, is facing an investigation by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) over alleged involvement in employment offences.

The shopping center, owned by India-born businessman Mustaq Ahmed, came under the radar of the Singapore authorities after the department got several complaints related to “cashbacks” from salaries of employees and violations over work pass.

“The Ministry of Manpower has received complaints that Mohamed Mustafa and Samsuddin Co may have infringed the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Investigations are ongoing,” a ministry spokesman said, the New Paper reported.

The probe will cover all the offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, and not just specific violations, the report added.

Employees at the Mustafa Centre were made to return a certain amount to the company’s human resources department after getting their salaries, the Online Citizen (TOC) reported last week, citing a former employee named Abdul Haq Siddique, who worked as a senior sales executive in the store’s jewelry section.

Siddique told the publication that after his monthly salary was deposited into his bank account, he had to go to the HR department and return $600 to $1,000. He also said that the amount to be returned was calculated on the basis of his overtime earning in that month, and that he was actually instructed to give back the certain amount every month when the salary was credited into his account. This practice was effective till last October and stopped after the Mustafa families got involved in a legal dispute.

Mustafa Centre also stopped renewing S-passes for around 100 foreign employees in May this year, although MOM had issued special passes for them to retain them while investigations were conducted, the TOC report added. Most foreign employees at the retail hub are from India, PTI reported.

Each conviction of kickback charge may lead to a prison sentence of up to two years and/or fine up to S$30,000.

Mustafa Centre was established in Singapore’s Little India district by Mustaq Ahmed in 1973. Ahmed was born in Uttar Pradesh in 1951 and migrated to Singapore with his father after his mother’s death in 1956.

The retail giant was established by him and his father as a 900 sq.ft. shop on Serangoon Road in 1971. Ahmed later expanded it into a 40,000 sq. ft space in 1985. The 24-hour retail complex now sells around 300,000 products.

In 2011, Ahmed was ranked at the 37th place in Forbes magazine’s list of 40 richest people in Singapore. His wealth was reported to be US$240 million at that time.

Ahmed, his wife, two children and brother-in-law were recently sued by his step-siblings and their mother, who accused them of oppressive conduct under the Companies Act.