Rogue college faces Melbourne audit
August 12, 2008
A NOTORIOUS trades college for international students that has been the subject of a federal immigration investigation in NSW may be forced to shut its lucrative Melbourne operation.
The Sydney International College of Business, which occupies several floors of the historic art-deco Newspaper House in Collins Street, has been ordered to close its Sydney headquarters. State authorities found it was understaffed and had overcrowded cookery classes in illegal kitchens.
Last year Operation Dachshund, comprising investigators from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Federal Police, alleged college heads sold qualifications for between $10,000 and $30,000 to visa-seeking international students who did not attend classes. The students had already paid more than $20,000 in fees for courses in commercial cookery or hospitality management.
The Age revealed yesterday the extent of the same cash-for-certificates scam in Melbourne, the only difference being that the going rate for bogus certificates at between $5000 and $9000 was less. A multi-agency probe comprising immigration, education and tax office investigators is closing in on several people of interest within the interlinked migration and vocational education sectors.
The trades or vocational colleges which in Melbourne tend to be clustered in the upper levels of office blocks in the CBD specialise in courses that help the students obtain permanent residence. The bogus paperwork, certifying attendance and results, are crucial to students seeking residency. Most are reluctant to report the practice.
After last year's cash-for-certificates sting the college in Sydney had 10 courses suspended. But now, after being ordered to shut down because of overcrowding, it will lose its Federal Government registration. The college will not be able to operate in Melbourne after September 5 without passing a new Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority audit.
It has passed all previous audits.
In Sydney the overcrowded kitchens did not contain adequate ventilation and breached council health and safety regulations, according to the NSW Vocational Education Training Accreditation Board.
The college directors are Philip Lobo, 60, of Dubai, where the college has a campus, and Harri Mundru, 32, and Elizabeth Tehan, 51, of Sydney. Mr Lobo and Mr Mundru were both born in India, according to company records. Mr Mundru is listed at the college's Melbourne address but calls to him were redirected to the Sydney campus. He did not return calls.
In 2002 Mr Lobo was expelled by the sector's peak body, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, after listing tertiary qualifications he did not have. He had claimed to have a PhD from a university whose postal address corresponded with a laundromat in London.
The expulsion left him without the compulsory tuition assurance that protects students' fees but he found membership of a smaller assurance scheme and kept trading.
The federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said it could investigate a college “if allegations or complaints are received that indicate a possible breach” of education law.
With HARRIET ALEXANDER