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Australian Student Visa Scam - Melbourne

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Guest The Pom Queen

HUNDREDS of Indian students have been buying the right to live in Australia by paying criminals for fake work references in a racket worth millions.


The massive scam, based in Melbourne and involving local restaurant and small business owners, has been described by officials as "an organised and lucrative criminal enterprise".

It has been exposed in more than a dozen rulings by the Migration Review Tribunal, which has cancelled the temporary and permanent residency of students who paid up to $3500 for fake documents.

They bought references saying they had completed 900 hours of unpaid work experience in areas such as cooking, baking, mechanics and hairdressing, giving them half the points required for residency.

The tribunal, which in the past year has heard 15 cases involving students fighting the fraud allegations, noted that many Indian migration agents touted baking and cookery courses as "a fast track to permanent residence".

Five trainees who used fake documents showing they had worked as cooks or pastry chefs ended up working in Australia as taxi drivers, security guards or checkout operators.

One Indian student paid the scam's kingpin $3500 to be a cook and another paid a chef $2500 for a fake reference and a photo of himself standing in the kitchen.

The key man involved in the scam, Carmine Amarante, worked at Della International training college in Melbourne's CBD.

He has been jailed for three years for his part in the $2 million rort. Amarante created 541 fake documents attached to 471 visa applications lodged with the department.

He charged between $1500 and $2500 for each fraudulent document, and paid the business owners $300 to $500 for each signature.

The Immigration Department has been cancelling visas since uncovering the five-year scam but declined to comment for this story.

In May, student Rajinder Singh appeared before the Migration Review Tribunal and admitted he had bought a bogus reference.

In Amarante's case, Melbourne County Court was told Bakers Hut Bread Supplies gave more than 155 false work references and job offers to international students, and Axilleon cake shop in Coburg provided 120 fake work references.

Others involved included bakeries in Coburg and Glenroy, restaurants in Thomastown and Coburg, a landscaping business and a Preston mechanic.

David Young, a Migration Tribunal member who heard several cases, described the scheme as "an egregious and calculated fraud".

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