Fake visa claims cause 10-year ‘court carnage’
Exclusive: A migration agency for Indian nationals has caused "carnage" on Australia's immigration system with up to 1300 fake visa claims now choking the court system for almost 10 years, in one of the longest running fraud cases of its kind.
And the pain is likely to continue with one of those involved in the phony migration scheme potentially involved in a new enterprise in northern India, allegedly stealing database details from its clients in Australia to sell to Indian organised crime groups.
The Federal Court has lashed out at S & S Migration which was struck off by the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) in 2013 but not before the agency handed out 1300 visas to allow mostly Indian nationals to live and work in Australia.
The company was run by Jeetender Ajjan, whose wife Reetika Ajjan worked as a Department of Immigration official, and Mahimn Sodhan.
All three fled Australia in 2011 following Australian Federal Police raids.
They left after having transferred more than $1 million to bank accounts in Delhi, India.
The potential fraud was briefly raised in federal parliament in 2014 with now Prime Minister Scott Morrison who was then immigration Minister, but he declined to provide details and only confirmed a scam investigation was ongoing.
But it can now be revealed that since that time, those given fake visas have been fighting to remain in Australia through every available jurisdiction including the Federal Court, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Circuit Court and the Migration Review Tribunal of Australia in what one tribunal described as having "orchestrated widespread mayhem in the work of the Minister's department and in the Tribunal because of (S & S Migration) fraudulent activities".
One hearing described the extent of the dishonesty as "breathtaking", while another noted it was an extensive racket with some cases since taking years to resolve.
"This is yet another case arising from the carnage left by the fraudulent conduct of S & S Migration," Federal Court justices Debra Mortimer and Natalie Charlesworth said last month in their latest finding on a case that had been going since May 2012.
"As the evidence on this appeal demonstrates, this firm held itself out to visa applicants as able to secure work visas for them, while charging them considerable sums of money for visa applications completed online by those persons operating S & S Migration, and based on deliberately false information.
"The conduct of S & S Migration involved several stages of dishonesty."
Most of the complainants taking legal action have been found to have knowingly accepted the fraudulent visa, without satisfying even the language or skills requirement, for a fee of between $2500 and $3500. Those visas have now been rejected.
The AFP has confirmed the case file on the trio "remains open" not least of all because of the lost moneys but also the possibility they are involved in another enterprise stealing Australian data; it has been confirmed authorities in India are probing that claim of involvement of data theft.
"Mr and Mrs Ajjan departed Australia on 29 October 2011 and have not returned and they are currently believed to be in India," an AFP spokesman said yesterday.
"A total of $637,468.69 has been forfeited to the Commonwealth under the Proceeds of Crime Act and pecuniary penalty orders in the sum of $1,198,178.60 remain unsatisfied."
S & S Migration operated out of Melbourne and gained business through word of mouth and handing out pamphlets in Melbourne's CBD.
The AFP October 2011 raids were centred on its Melbourne CBD business premise as well as a residential home in Taylors Hills and an apartment in the Docklands area.
Stolen Immigration Department equipment was found in the Ajjan home as well as more than $400,000 cash deemed by authorities as proceeds of crime.
The Ajjans now live in a large house in New Delhi, Jeetender has bought himself a luxury car and Harley Davidson motorbike. Police confirmed they were still wanted for questioning.
* S & S Migration is not related to an Adelaide business which this week said it would look at changing its name to avoid confusion.
Originally published as Fake visa claims cause 10-year 'court carnage'