Anti-corruption group calls for strong enforcement action in respect of Shelbourne College
Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) supports the Irish Council for International Students’ calls for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) to do more to investigate those responsible for the loss of over €500,000 in overseas’ students’ fees.
150 students from countries including Pakistan, Nepal, India, Vietnam and the Philippines paid for courses but were subsequently denied visas and could not attend. In these circumstances, the money ought to have been returned to them. Instead, the College closed in November 2014 and the Council believes that those responsible have left Ireland.
TI Ireland has heard from one of the affected students through its “Speak Up” helpline service. “We have been contacted by a very distressed Indian student who has lost almost €5,500. This is a lot of money for him – considering that the average monthly wage in India (based on figures from 2012) is just over €100. To make matters worse, he is being charged high interest on the loan that he took out to pay for his fees,” said Susheela Math, Legal Counsel at TI Ireland.
“We are aware that the Irish Council for Overseas Students has made reports to the ODCE and the GBFI to have this matter fully investigated and those responsible prosecuted. Unfortunately, the Council has been disappointed by the responses from them. Students are drawing the conclusion that the Irish authorities do not care about the issue.”
- TI Ireland operates the Speak Up helpline for whistleblowers, as well as witnesses and victims of fraud, corruption and other official malpractice. The free-phone helpline (1800 844 866) is open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
- The Speak Up helpline will soon be operated by a new Transparency Legal Advice Centre, Ireland’s first independent law centre providing free specialist legal advice for whistleblowers. The Centre will be launched this winter.
- According to the ILO’s country profile database, average monthly earnings in India in 2012 were 7479 rupees. This equates to around €102 on current exchange rates. This can be contrasted with average monthly earnings in Ireland in 2009 of €3057 (source: ILO country profile database: http://www.ilo.org/ilostat/faces/home/statisticaldata/ContryProfileId?_adf.ctrl-state=f0qyc81vc_21&_afrLoop=2058199319247649)
- The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration issued a statement on 12 January 2015 making clear that: “A college taking money from students pending a visa application is fully aware that they have no entitlement to those funds until the student is confirmed as being allowed to come to Ireland as a student. This is standard practice across EU jurisdictions which are involved in international student business. Should the student's visa application be refused then the fees must be returned (less a reasonable small handling charge).” See the full statement here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR15000003