Criminal gangs in visas for sale scam
Crime syndicates and people smugglers are involved in widespread rorting of Australia’s programs for working and student visas, whistleblowers and a former top immigration official say.
The claims come as the Australian Border Force is facing more than 100 allegations of corruption, including suggestions that some immigration officers may be supporting the rorting , a Fairfax Media and ABC 7.30 investigation can reveal.
Border Force Chief Michael Pezzullo has referred 132 cases of alleged corruption involving immigration officers may be supporting the under resourced federal law enforcement watchdog in the past 12 months, more referrals than the watchdog has received in any year since its creation in 2006.
The revelations point to a failure to deal with endemic crime in Australia’s visa system involving some licensed migration agents and education providers, and a thriving cash-for-visa black market.
A former Immigration Department investigations head has alleged “fear-mongering” on refugees and asylum seekers has been used to deflect attention from the real problems in the immigration system.
Joseph Petyanszki, who jointly headed the department’s investigation office between 2007 and 2013, said the department had ignored tens of thousands of cases of rorting perpetrated by migration agents and dodgy employers who game the student and work visa systems to allow foreigners to pay for entry.
Mr Petyanszki’s investigators uncovered thousands of fraudulent visa applicants’ in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. In most cases, no charges were ever brought.
The investigators identified one major corruption case inside the department involving an officer who subsequently fled overseas.
Mr Petyanszki called for a major overhaul in the fight against migration crime. “In the border security debate, it has been easy to deflect the public’s attention to boat arrivals. But this fear –mongering has totally ignored where the vast bulk of real fraud is most significantly undermining our immigration programs”, he said.
The Fairfax Media – 7.30 investigation includes interviews with two whistleblowers and a covertly filmed sting, which captures a fixer saying that for $50,000 in cash per foreigners his syndicate can create phantom jobs and visa sponsorship. The revelations suggest corruption infects every level of the visa supply chain- migration agents, employers who sponsor workers, education providers and immigration officials. There is little effective deterrence for perpetrators.
In a follow up report Faifax and 7.30 will reveal how organized criminals are infiltrating the border security system, along with claims that the existing watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, is badly outgunned.
The large number of immigration corruption allegations referred to the commission has prompted Senator Xenophon to say of the law enforcement integrity commission.
The comments are likely to be backed by several independent senators and the Greens, who are pushing for a national Independent Commission against Corruption. However, government sources defend the existing integrity commission, saying that even though it is under-resourced, it has helped uncover major corruption, and quietly driven vital reforms.
Mr Petyanszki’s concerns are supported by serving officials who, speaking confidentially, say organized crime figures are among those rorting the visa system to set up criminal enterprises.
In claims also backed by serving officials, Mr Petyanszki said the overwhelming focus by both major parties on stopping asylum-seeker boats reaching Australia had enabled endemic visa rorting by those arriving by plane.
A departmental spokesman said the Border Force has spent 12 months ramping up its attack on visa and migration fraud.
“The Department’s activities are focused on defeating visa fraud at the systematic level, including investigating and prosecuting networks involved in criminally exploiting Australia’s visa regime,” the spokesman said.
He cautioned that many of the 132 corruption allegations had not been verified and some involved allegations about people who falsely claimed to be Border Force staff.
Indian community leader Jasvinder Sidhu said he was aware of dozens of cases in which Indian nationals had paid crooked fixers sums of up to $80,000 to get visa sponsorship for jobs that did not exist, or for education courses that the applicant never attended.
A fixer subsequently filmed by Fairfax Media and 7.30 claimed he was unable to keep up with demand for the corrupt services offered by his Korean boss, who is a migration agent operating in Sydney and Melbourne.
Indian nationals who have paid unscrupulous bosses to sponsor them have, according to Mr Sidhu, been exploited or, according to Mr Sidhu, been exploited or, in some cases, sexually assaulted by their employer. They do not complain to police for fear of losing their visas.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald – 27/06/2016