Foreign journalist was on Tuesday (May 17) fined S$6,500 for doing freelance work.

A foreign journalist was on Tuesday (May 17) fined S$6,500 for doing freelance work without a valid work pass.

Calum Arthur Alistair Stuart, 36, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Another similar charge was considered for sentencing.

The two co-accused who engaged his services – Refinitiv Asia and media professional Muhammad Firdianshah Salimat – were also fined S$5,500 and S$4,000 respectively.

Stuart, a Briton, married a Singaporean in 2014 and was on a long-term visit pass when he offended in 2015 and 2016.

The Ministry of Manpower received information against Stuart for possible illegal employment in September 2019 and investigated.

Stuart admitted to doing freelance television and video production work for Refinitiv, then known as Thomson Reuters, while he did not hold a valid work pass.

He was paid about S$30,000 for work done over more than half a year from Nov 25, 2015 to Jul 8, 2016, except for a period of about three weeks in June 2016.

The court heard that Stuart was offered an assistant producer role with Refinitiv’s news business in August 2015. He agreed to the offer but did not sign the employment contract.

The company subsequently applied for an employment pass on Stuart’s behalf, but the application was rejected on Sep 9, 2015.

The company then applied for a letter of consent for Stuart to work for them on Nov 23, 2015. This was rejected on Dec 23 that year.

Around Nov 25, 2015, while waiting for approval of the letter of consent, Refinitiv offered freelance work to Stuart at a rate of S$4,500 a month.

Stuart accepted despite knowing that he was prohibited from engaging in any profession without a valid work pass, according to court documents.

The prosecution asked for a fine of S$7,000 to S$8,000, arguing that while Stuart did not take active steps to be illegally self-employed, he accepted the offer only two days after the company had applied for his letter of consent.

Stuart also made significant gains from his illegal employment, said Ministry of Manpower prosecuting officer Houston Johannus.

Stuart’s defence lawyer Remy Choo said his client’s main offence was in failing to check the status of his letter of consent, and disagreed that the amount he earned was relevant to sentencing.

On Refinitiv’s part, the company admitted to being aware that Stuart did not hold a valid work pass when it made the freelance offer.

The company pleaded guilty to one charge of abetting Stuart to commit the offence of being a self-employed foreigner without a valid work pass.

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