Malaysian-born Curtin University staffer Keith Low began taking occasional bribes to help friends win visas with false English marks, but soon had a business catering to desperate immigrants, a West Australian corruption hearing has heard in Perth.
The state’s Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) is investigating allegations that a staff member at the university was bribed to falsify results of English-language competency tests, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reports.
Applicants for permanent residency and work or students’ visas must prove their competence under the International English Testing System (IELTS), which is relied upon by the Department of Immigration.
Low, who came from Malaysia to Australia in 1999 as an international student,was acting coordinator of the IELTS at the university between February 2009 and July, last year. He was approached by his housemate, Abdul Kader, over whether he couldchange the test results of an acquaintance who was struggling to pass the test.
In evidence earlier in the week, Low agreed to falsify the test results of Vishnal Pandya in mid-2009 in exchange for money, with Kader acting as ‘middle-man’.
Under questioning by counsel assisting the CCC, Peter Quinlan, Low admitted the operation had become a lot bigger by last June.
“It had gone from something early on that was done occasionally for friends offriends,” Quinlan is quoted by AAP as saying.
“Would you agree it had become something of a commercial enterprise with largenumbers of people taking the test on the test dates?” Low replied: “I did, yes, I did mention to Mr Kader and did question him aboutwhere all these people were coming from, based on the information that he was giving me.”
Between March and June 2010, Low received several cash payments of A$1,000 and A$3,000 from visa applicants, as well as one larger sum of A$7,000.
He said he was unsure how much money he had made through the operation, but bank statements suggested it was more than A$30,000.
One of those who paid a bribe to have their IELTS score changed was student Talwinder Singh Pannu who had continually failed to achieve the score to qualify for permanent residency.
With his visa about to expire, Pannu asked his housemate, Manpreet Singh,for help and he told him he knew someone who could change his scores if he was bribed.
Pannu told the hearing he was becoming desperate to get his permanent residency. He said Manpreet knew that not only he but his nine housemates were also having trouble getting their desired IELTS score and had become desperate.
Pannu paid A$10,000 to have his test results falsified, much of which was borrowed from friends. In April, last year, Pannu attempted to leave the country but was arrested because he was required to give evidence before the CCC, as part of theinvestigation.
The hearing before Acting Commissioner Mark Herron is due to finish onMonday.