by Sally Sara  Monday, November 21, 2011 ABC AU


MARK COLVIN: Crooks have targeted the Australian High Commission in New Delhi in an employment scam.

Criminals posing as Australian immigration officials have tried to extort thousands of dollars in bribes from people seeking jobs as visa officers.

The High Commission has investigated the matter and says its staff are not involved.

A victim of the scam has been left shattered and jobless and says Australian officials have treated him like garbage.

South Asia correspondent Sally Sara reports.

SALLY SARA: It began with a simple job application but led to the trail of an elaborate fraud.

Vijay Joshi was working for a call centre in New Delhi. He met a man on a company training course who told him some jobs were coming up at the Australian High Commission.

Vijay Joshi lodged his application to become a senior visa officer on August 24th.

But somehow scam artists got his phone number and email address and started making contact, pretending to be Australian officials from the High Commission.

They sent a text message to Mr Joshi claiming they had fixed the selection process so he would get the job.

EXTRACT FROM TEXT MESSAGE: Everything has been done now. Interview is just formality.

SALLY SARA: They promised Mr Joshi would get a car, luxury house and even Australian citizenship when he took up the position.

EXTRACT FROM TEXT MESSAGE: So now you can go anytime, anywhere in Australia. From now you will be called as visa officer with all authorities. Congrats.

SALLY SARA: PM has obtained dozens of emails, letters and text messages sent by the scammers.

Members of the syndicate used the false names Lachlen Cotton and Nuvan Djikovic and claimed to be senior officials from the Australian High Commission’s visa office.

They even sent a fake air ticket to Vijay Joshi, saying he would be flown to Mumbai for training.

EXTRACT FROM TEXT MESSAGE: So be ready to fly away to places and get some serious work and show us some talented skills.

SALLY SARA: But there was a catch. The fictitious Lachlen Cotton and Nuvan Djikovic wanted money.

Vijay Joshi says they demanded 200,000 Indian rupees, almost $AU 4,000, to guarantee the job at the High Commission.

VIJAY JOSHI: Yes he asked me. But I challenged him because I was sure that this was not true, this was not genuine.

SALLY SARA: Vijay Joshi didn’t pay. Instead he started asking questions.

He contacted compliance officers from the Department of Immigration. They told Mr Joshi the messages he’d received were part of a scam.

VIJAY JOSHI: So they told me that this is all fake and you have been fooled.

SALLY SARA: The compliance team confirmed there were no staff members by the name of Nuvan Djikovic and Lachlen Cotton.

It’s unclear whether the scammers were trying to clone the name of the real life Deputy High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan who had no involvement in the scam.

Vijay Joshi was devastated by the revelations. He’d already resigned from his previous job because he thought he was about to start work at the Australian High Commission.

VIJAY JOSHI: I left that job, I left my promotion, only for this job. I mean I was shattered. I mean I was completely destroyed.

SALLY SARA: Mr Joshi is angry that the Australian High Commission didn’t inform him sooner that his job application had been unsuccessful. He says if he’d been informed he would have known earlier that the messages and promises from the scammers were fake.

VIJAY JOSHI: If they would have informed that you had been not selected I could not have been cheated by these people.

SALLY SARA: The con artists not only pretended to be Australian visa officials, they sent letters and emails with a forged copy of the High Commission logo.

A spokesman for the High Commission in Delhi released a statement to PM confirming the scam has been investigated.

STATEMENT FROM AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSION: The Australian High Commission is aware of these allegations. A thorough internal investigation found there was no substance to the allegation that an employment scam was being run from within the Australian High Commission.

SALLY SARA: But that doesn’t make sense to Vijay Joshi. He wants to know how the con artists were able to obtain his phone and email contacts when he lodged his job application with the High Commission.

The statement from the High Commission spokesman says those responsible for the scheme were outsiders, not staff members.

STATEMENT FROM AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSION: The investigation found that a person unknown to the Australian High Commission had been using the name of the High Commission to scam unsuccessful applicants in recruitment exercises for positions with the visa office at the Australian High Commission.

SALLY SARA: After reporting the scam to Australian officials Vijay Joshi applied for another job at the High Commission. On November 4th he was selected to take a written test but was unsuccessful.

The High Commission says the process was fair. But Mr Joshi fears he was knocked back because he was a whistle blower.

VIJAY JOSHI: And I have been thrown like a garbage.

SALLY SARA: Vijay Joshi is now jobless and frustrated.

Three of his colleagues were also tricked by the con artists.

He says the Australian Government should take action against the ring leader of the racket.

VIJAY JOSHI: He should be punished so that he cannot ask more people to give money and he will fix a job for them. But they have not taken any action.

SALLY SARA: Vijay Joshi has reported the matter to the commissioner of Delhi police but the case is yet to be formally registered.

Those responsible for the job scam are still at large.

This is Sally Sara reporting for PM.