Investigators estimate fake migration agent Qi Zhou’s fraudulent scheme generated more than $12 million in fees from mostly Chinese students.
Zhou’s Collins Street business targeted students who sought migration assistance and also arranged sham marriages to obtain Australian residency.
Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday heard staff at Hong Yun International (HYI) provided a range of false documents and services to support clients’ visa applications.
AdvertisementThese included false and fraudulently altered documents from institutions that included Melbourne, Monash and Deakin, RMIT and Swinburne universities.
The court heard many students had failed to obtain suitably high scores or had dropped out of their course through poor attendance or unsatisfactory academic results.
Zhou’s staff provided forged documents that showed students not only still attending courses, but graduating with high scores by the provision of graduation certificates, results statements and letters of completion.
Some students were also able to obtain positions within post-graduate degrees when not qualified to do so.
Zhou, 46, yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiring to dishonestly influence a public official and nine charges of importing false templates between January, 2006, and December, 2008.
More than 200 charges were withdrawn. One defendant has been sentenced while two suspects — Jian (William) Zhang, 39, and Yan Bin Hu, 32, — left Australia in 2009 and have not returned.
Magistrate Peter Reardon heard a joint Australian Federal Police and Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) investigation identified Zhou as the business’ primary owner, manager and director.
Staff guaranteed clients immigration visas, offered ‘‘finders’’’ fees and provided fake enrolments to satisfy a government requirement for study visas.
Students also obtained false work references, work histories and pay records from companies owned by Zhou.
These activities were conducted with or without the clients’ knowledge.
The prosecution case is that the offenders acted fraudulently against the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA), the General Skilled Migration program (GSM) and the Trades Recognition Australia office (TRA).
According to a prosecution summary, clients ‘‘paired up’’ by Zhou for sham marriages were told to share address information and create contrived ‘‘relationship-supporting’’ photos and witness declarations.
The false details and material would then be submitted to DIAC by staff for the purpose of obtaining visas.
When the business was raided in 2009, police found more than 250 client files.
The AFP estimated that in the offending period the HYI’s fraudulent activity generated a total of more than $12.3 million.
Many of the fraudulent applications submitted to DIAC were either successful in obtaining residency, refused or withdrawn.
The summary said Zhou, to try to conceal the creation and storage of false documents, arranged for a separate office specifically for this purpose.
Twice he established new offices — after emptying and closing those raided by investigators.
The court heard Zhou had used a company that owned a number of restaurants, including Chinatown Dumpling restaurant, Sichuan Dining Room and Lucky’s Dining Room, to receive the money from HYI’s offending.
Zhou, of Kingsbury, was bailed to appear in the County Court next year.