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Hundreds of youths duped in visa fraud
Published on 10 Feb. 2010 12:00 AM IST
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A hundred-plus and still counting! The number of gullible students wishing to go abroad for further studies and who have been duped of sums ranging from Rs.two to six lakh is estimated to be many times more -- or so the Gujarat police realized as it began unravelling the contours of a flourishing visa fraud. If money is their strength, English language is a weakness among many students in Gujarat wishing to go abroad for further studies. The low International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores thus become a major hindrance. A group of youngsters turned this handicap into a major source of dubious income, cheating hundreds of students and making crore of rupees for themselves in the bargain. According to District Superintendent of police (Kaira) Himanshu Shukla, 110 bogus certificates issued by them have been seized so far and the count is expected to go up to many times the number. “Ten people have been arrested so far and the number is expected to go up as the network assiduously built by them is dismantled brick by brick,” he said Tuesday. Shukla said that the cops got wind of this flourishing cheating business which had been going on for over 18 months when some students who had paid up to get their IELTS scores raised came a cropper and spilled the beans. The cheats, who charged between Rs.two-six lakh per student promised to use their contacts to get the scores increased and get them visas. The core group operating the cheating racket comprised an engineer, Vatsal Trivedi, heading the web operations and a calligraphy expert, Ashok Joshi, who forged the bogus certificates. Also part of the core group was the owner of an IELTS tution class. Most of those involved in the business of duping visa aspirants are young with a fair sprinkling of students among their ranks. “It was fun lifestyle and loads to spend that attracted them to set up this cheating ring,” Shukla said. It is learnt that the accused would promise to upgrade the marksheet of the students and flaunt the website of the British Council on their laptops. They would change the marksheets on their personal computers and show it to their victims telling them that the same has been updated in the council website. A lot of phising techniques were used to convince the victims. The students would discover the fraud only when they reached the Embassy and then seek a refund which was never made. “In Gujarat, a lot of people want to go abroad, and even if they do not have good marks, they would opt for any kind of means to get there,” said Ahmedabad Range Inspector General of police Ashish Bhatia. “They are also ready to pay huge amounts for the same and this makes them vulnerable to such scams, even though reports of such scams surface with regular periodicity,” he added.

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