An Indian education agent accused of being at the centre of a scandal over fake Canadian college admission letters has been arrested in this country and is now facing criminal charges here.
On Friday, Canada Border Services Agency charged Brijesh Mishra, a citizen of India, with offering immigration advice without a licence and with counselling a person to directly or indirectly misrepresent or withhold information from authorities.
Only licensed lawyers and consultants registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants can legally offer immigration advice and services at a fee. Neither the Law Society of Ontario nor the consultants’ college show any records on their websites indicating Mishra was a member. Education agents are not regulated in Canada.
He was arrested when trying to enter Canada and was found to be inadmissible by border agents. He remained in custody until he was charged Friday for his alleged role in issuing fraudulent letters of acceptance to Canadian post-secondary institutions for prospective Indian students.
The charges against Mishra come in the wake of an international education scandal that has made headlines in Canada and India after a group of international students was flagged for deportation for allegedly using doctored admission letters to obtain their study permits.
The students, a group said to be in the hundreds, claim they were unaware that the admission letters given to them were doctored, and say they only became aware of the issue when they were flagged by border officials after they had finished their courses and applied for postgraduate work permits. Some cases were flagged during the students’ permanent residence application process.
The latest news followed an announcement by Immigration Minister Sean Fraser last week to stop the pending deportations of the Indian international students who claimed they were duped by Mishra and other unscrupulous agents.
“Our government is taking action against those who are responsible for fraud, while protecting those who’ve come here to pursue their studies,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in a news release Friday.
“I want to thank CBSA’s criminal investigators for their hard work protecting Canadians and those who hope to come here.”
The charges against Mishra were laid by the CBSA Pacific Region Criminal Investigations Section.
“Our officers worked diligently to investigate these offences and we will continue to do our best to ensure those who break our laws are held accountable,” said Nina Patel, regional director general responsible for the agency.
The students all share similar stories: applying for student visas through a consultant; being told upon arrival their enrolled program was no longer available and then being advised to delay their studies or go to another school; and ending up enrolling in and completing their studies at a college different from the one for which their study permit was issued.
A new task force has been established by senior immigration and border enforcement officials to examine the specifics of each case to decide whether individual students were complicit in defrauding the system.
The immigration department’s and the border agency’s response to the scandal has been under scrutiny.
Some of the students and their supporters had camped outside the CBSA office on Airport Road in Toronto for weeks, and the parliamentary immigration committee has launched its own study, demanding answers from immigration and border officials on this matter.
Supporters have said the students were victims and should not be penalized, and questioned why the fraudulent documents weren’t detected until years later, after many of the students had already graduated from other schools, had jobs and gotten established.