20 Sep 2016

Indian agent fraud investigation under way

9:13 pm on 20 September 2016

An Indian education agent who is on a list for fraud could have his licence revoked if evidence is found, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says.

RNZ reported today that the Immigration Advisers Authority gave Vinod Kumar Sharma a licence in August, despite Immigration New Zealand placing him on a list of possible fraudsters.

22082016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Caucas run. Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Woodhouse confirmed the two agencies - which are both run out of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) - did not share information, but said the case was subject to an investigation.

RNZ News has learned that Immigration New Zealand asked for a policy change so the would be shared when the IAA assessed whether to licence someone.

Mr Sharma, of the Punjab region, runs Kiwi Studies Limited, which is one of the top 10 agents in India, sending hundreds of students to New Zealand each year.

He was named in an Immigration New Zealand internal memo about education loan scams, which on 17 March said Kiwi Studies and Mr Sharma had "been using this fraud, with two hits this week".

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway asked Mr Woodhouse during question time in Parliament this afternoon about how the agent was then awarded an official licence.

"When Immigration New Zealand, another department of MBIE, had previously identified him as being involved in 'significant organised document fraud' relating to student visas."

Mr Woodhouse said Mr Sharma only received a provisional licence last month.

"I would expect that the Immigration Advisers Authority believed that that applicant met all of the criteria for admission.

"In respect of the accusations the member makes, they are subject to an investigation, and I'm watching it closely."

But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was not an isolated case.

"Why has the Immigration Advisers Authority received 143 complaints this year about dodgy education agents based in India giving advice about New Zealand immigration unlawfully?"

Mr Woodhouse said people had the confidence to speak up when they saw breaches of the licensing regime, and he would expect the authority to follow them up.

He said now that Mr Sharma was part of the immigration licensing scheme, he would face greater consequences if he failed to meet the licensing standards.

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

The Kiwi Studies website promotes a "world class atmoshphare" for studying in New Zealand. Photo: Screenshot / www.kiwiedu.com

A screenshot from the Kiwi studies website boasts of a provisional license from the IAA.

The website boasts of the provisional license from the Immigration Advisers Authority. Photo: Screenshot / www.kiwiedu.com

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