Indian authorities have arrested a travel agent accused of forging the student visa documents of dozens of international students who are currently facing removal orders from Canada due to misrepresentation in their applications.
A spokesperson for the Police Commissionerate at Jalandhar, Punjab, confirmed with The Fifth Estate that Rahul Bhargava, of the firm Education and Migration Services, was arrested and that they are still looking for his partners, Brijesh Mishra and Gurnam Singh. They face multiple charges under India’s criminal, penal and administrative codes.
The Fifth Estate obtained three FIRs (First Information Reports) from the Police Commissionerate that were registered after multiple complaints from the parents of the students.
One of the parents, Baldev Raj from Nakodar, Jalandhar, told The Fifth Estate that in addition to preparing a fake acceptance letter from Sheridan College without their knowledge, the agent, Brijesh Mishra, cheated him out of $14,000, which was supposed to cover two semesters of tuition at the Ontario college for his daughter.
He said when his daughter reached Canada, Mishra told her not to go to Sheridan until further notice. They waited for two weeks, but there was no response from Mishra, and when they tried to contact him, he never returned their calls.
When Raj inquired about his daughter’s registration at Sheridan College in Brampton, Ont., with the help of his friend in Canada, he learned that his daughter was never registered there. He later found out that Mishra had never made any payments to the college and had kept the whole amount.
“Mishra defrauded me and my daughter,” Raj said. “Not only did he rip us off, but the future of my daughter is in dark because of him.”
Raj said his daughter later enrolled in Cambrian at Hanson, a Toronto school connected to Cambrian College, and he paid another $14,000 for her tuition, but he never received a refund from the agent for the Sheridan College tuition.
His daughter is now facing a removal order issued by the Canada Border Services Agency due to the use of a fake letter of acceptance in her initial student visa application.
‘We are victims, not culprits’
Mishra has been accused of duping dozens of international students who are now facing removal orders from Canada.
The students protested outside the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto on Thursday to fight to remain in Canada, holding signs that read, “Stop Victim Blaming,” “We are Victims of Fraud,” “We are Victims, not Culprits,” “Unite Against Deportation” and “Wake Up Canadian Government.”
Among the students who were protesting, Ranbir Singh from Gurdaspur, Punjab, told The Fifth Estate that Mishra also cheated him out of $14,000, the amount that should have gone toward his first-year tuition at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology in Ottawa.
Singh said that following his arrival in Canada in September 2018, Mishra informed him that the college was full for the semester and that he would not be able to pursue his studies there.
He said he personally went to Algonquin to inquire about his admission, but the college couldn’t verify his registration.
Singh said he also showed his letter of acceptance to a staff member at the front desk, but they couldn’t figure out that it was a fake letter at that time and instead advised him to speak to his agent.
“I questioned and argued, but instead of informing me about the fraudulent document, they advised me to go back to the same person who perpetrated this fraud,” he said.
Singh then enrolled at Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Hamilton and paid another $14,000 for the first year of his education. But he said he didn’t receive any refund from the agent for his payment to Algonquin College, and Mishra stopped answering his phone calls.
The deputy commissioner of Jalandhar, Punjab, cancelled the licence for Mishra’s firm, Education and Migration Services, on March 21, alleging the company was involved in criminal activity.
The case is currently being investigated by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Jalandhar Police Commissionerate.
Meanwhile, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed that there are a number of active Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) investigations into cases of misrepresentation, including those related to study permits.
“Persons who misrepresent themselves and/or use fraudulent documentation to seek entry to Canada or to remain in Canada are contravening IRPA and risk being removed from Canada,” the CBSA said in a statement.
“The CBSA is responsible for investigating allegations of violations of the Customs Act and the IRPA, focusing on complex cases involving organized fraudulent activity, or a history of non-compliance, and primarily targeting the organizers, facilitators and perpetrators of the crimes and who pose a threat to the integrity of Canada’s border legislation.”