4 Nov 2016

Indian Fraudster hands over NZ immigration licence

7:14 am on 4 November 2016

The Indian immigration agent who got a New Zealand licence despite being on a list of fraudsters has now surrendered his licence.

The Kiwi Studies website has gone "under construction".

The Kiwi Studies website has gone "under construction". Photo: www.kiwiedu.com

The botch-up triggered a debate in Parliament in September but the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) website now shows Vinod Kumar Sharma gave up the provisional licence two days ago.

It is not yet known if an investigation into Mr Kumar, ordered by Immigraton Minister Michael Woodhouse, will continue.]

Labour Party immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said the results of the investigation must be released but that the government and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had been making it harder to get information about dodgy schools and agents.

"So I do not expect the government to release that information [the investigation results] without quite a bit of a fight."

Mr Kumar had used the IAA licence to promote his Kiwi Studies website, which is now under reconstruction.

The Kiwi studies website boasts of a 'world class atmoshphare' for studying in NZ.

The website boasted a 'world class atmoshphare' for studying in NZ, before it was taken down. Photo: Screenshot / www.kiwiedu.com

Mr Kumar has said he will respond to RNZ tomorrow.

He posted on Facebook in August about attending the New Zealand International Education Conference, saying: "Very excited to meet with Hon Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Hon Kohli Ji, High Commisioner of India in NZ and many industry friends".

Vinod Kumar Sharma (2nd on right) posted this on Facebook in August.

Vinod Kumar Sharma (2nd on right) posted this on Facebook in August. Photo: Facebook

Earlier, in February, he posted a photo of himself clutching an award alongside two polytech bosses, saying: "Got Best Performing Partner Award for India - Manukau

Institute of Technology" and "Got Best Performing Partner certificate from NorthTec Polytechnic".

In memos in March and April, Immigration New Zealand named Mr Kumar's agency as one of 57 in India that had committed fraud, in his case three times.

Figures released without names under the Official Information Act (OIA) showed that by August, the number of fraudulent agents had grown from 57 to almost 300, and individual cases had gone from 75 to 640.

Immigration New Zealand has noted that agents caught committing fraud, or suspected of having committed it, have been changing their names. It refers to them as 'phoenix' companies.

Mr Lees-Galloway said there was a real risk Mr Kumar would reappear, recruiting Indian students under a new company name.

"Immigration New Zealand should refuse to allow him to operate as an immigration adviser of any kind. It's clear he has been involved in fraud, it's clear he never should have been given a licence ... in the first place."

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