Jalandhar: Education consultant Brijesh Mishra was arrested by the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) on Friday, June 23, at an airport in the British Columbia province while he was trying to enter Canada.
The news of Mishra’s arrest came as a huge respite for students from Punjab and their parents back home, who have been demanding his arrest since March this year.
In Jalandhar, the Punjab Police had booked Mishra under Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating and dishonesty), 465 (forgery), 467, 468, 471 and 120b (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. His Jalandhar-based education consulting office was also sealed by the district administration.
According to the Toronto Star, Mishra was arrested when trying to enter Canada and was “found to be inadmissible by the border agents”. Rumours were earlier rife that Mishra had either fled to Australia or the US.
He remained in custody until he was charged on Friday for his alleged role in issuing fraudulent letters of acceptance to Canadian post-secondary institutions for prospective Indian students.
The CBSA charged 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, the Toronto Star reported.
Mishra’s name came to the spotlight in March this year, when international students from Punjab in Canada started applying for their Permanent Residency (PR) cards. It was only when the CBSA checked students’ documents that the fake admission letter scam to light. Following this development, the Canadian government started issuing deportation letters to the students, leaving them in the lurch.
Around a dozen students, supported by different groups and the Punjabi diaspora, had sat on protest in front of the CBSA office on the airport road, Mississauga against the Canadian government’s decision to deport them in the wake of the fake admission letter scam. The protest was on May 28.
Notably, last week, Canadian immigration minister Sean Fraser put the deportation of all the students on hold. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a parliament debate had stated that their focus was on identifying the culprits and not penalising the victims.
Canadian government’s action against Brijesh Mishra
Mishra has been charged under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) based on the evidence collected during the criminal investigation.
The sections include: IRPA Sections 91(1) (unauthorised representation or advice for consideration); 126 (counselling misrepresentation); 127(a) (misrepresentation – direct or indirect misrepresentation), 127(b) (misrepresentation –communicating false information; and 124(1)(a) (non-compliance with the Act).
The five education consultants involved in the fake offer letter scam are Mishra, who was running the EMSA agency near the Jalandhar bus stand, Mann Singh Gill from Global Education, Amritsar, Jasmeet Kaur/Atul Mahajan from Orange Overseas, Mohali, Tarun Kalia from Dream Glow Education based in Uttar Pradesh and Gurbaj Gill from Fly Overseas, whose address could not be traced. The Punjab Police has formed an SIT to probe this nexus.
Students’ lawyer speaks
Talking to The Wire, Sumit Sen, barrister and Canadian immigration lawyer, said Mishra was currently in pre-trial detention in British Columbia.
Sen received information that since Mishra has been criminally charged, his custody has been transferred from the CBSA to British Columbia law enforcement.
“Mishra is scheduled for a bail hearing tonight (Friday night, Canadian time). We will subpoena him to court and cross-examine him. Even his connections in Canada will be summoned by the court. This is a big development and a huge victory for the students. Mishra’s entire nexus will be exposed,” Sen said.
Sen said that this clearly shows the Canadian government’s seriousness to protect the integrity of the Canadian education system. “Those who did wrong will be behind bars,” he added.
This week, two victim students – Balbir Singh and Lovepreet Singh – got a chance to appear as witnesses before an 11-member sub-committee on immigration and were cross-questioned by Canadian MPs. Both Balbir and Lovepreet spoke in the Canadian parliament and shared their problems.
Talking to The Wire after Mishra’s arrest, an elated Balbir Singh said that their sincere prayers have been heard. “I am yet to check this news but this is exactly what we have been demanding from the Punjab government. Despite being well qualified and having cleared our IELTS exams, our credentials were being doubted. Mishra’s arrest in Canada will expose the entire nexus,” he said.
Another victim student, Inderjit Singh Aulakh from Amritsar, said that he was still confirming the developments and it was a huge respite for all the affected students. “I could not believe it initially. The almighty has listened to our prayers. It is a big victory for all of us, who fought for our rights in a peaceful manner. We are thankful to the Canadian government for listening to us and providing a chance to seek justice,” he said.
Students asked Punjab CM to hold investigation
Meanwhile, a former international student, Jasprit Singh, who has been running the International Sikh Students Association, an NGO in Toronto, said that the victim students under the ‘Stand for Students Morcha’ have also shot off a letter to Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann, asking him to expose the nexus of fake educational consultants who were duping innocent students and robbing their parents of their hard-earned money.
In the letter, the students demanded that the Punjab government set up a task force or a dedicated team to investigate the immigration consultants involved in these fraudulent practices.
They also demanded the Punjab government liaise with the relevant Canadian authorities and advocate for the affected international students.
The students said that the Mann-led AAP government should take immediate action against the immigration agents who ruined students’ lives. “Appropriate legal measures should be taken to ensure that they are brought to justice and that the fraudulent activities are swiftly halted,” they said.
“The Punjab government should establish a support system within Punjab to assist the families of international students who fell into the trap of the fraudulent practice. Financial compensation equivalent to the amount defrauded by these agents should be given to the victims, so that justice can be done,” the students stated.
Meanwhile, Punjab NRI affairs minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal had told The Wire that the Punjab government has formed a Special Investigation Team to probe this scam. “We are almost close to some breakthrough in this case, the findings of which will be revealed soon. Since the matter is sensitive, we have kept the investigation under wraps,” he had claimed.