Australia

Two sacked from Australian embassy in South Africa in visa approval scandal

File photo Source: AAP

Two officers from Australia's outpost in Pretoria have been sacked following an investigation into visa approvals.

Two officers have been sacked from Australia’s diplomatic outpost in the South African capital Pretoria following an investigation that revealed their involvement in dozens of allegedly corrupt visa approvals.

A spokesperson for the Home Affairs department told SBS News “two non-Australian citizens” had their jobs “terminated following internal disciplinary investigations”.

“Robust action is taken against individuals where corrupt conduct is identified,” the spokesperson said.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal documents reveal 21 Nigerian student visas were “identified by the department as being tainted by the corrupt conduct of the department officers”, but it remains unclear if the officers involved will face criminal charges.

Home Affairs confirmed the visas had been “assessed” and “appropriate action” had been taken in some cases.

One of the Nigerian students caught up in the investigation, Ogochukwu Concilia Odinkaeze, is currently in Australia studying a Diploma of Nursing.

She had her visa cancelled by a government official because it had been “obtained as a result of the fraudulent conduct of a department officer”, tribunal documents state.

But the decision was later overturned by the AAT because there was no clear proof there was anything wrong with her visa approval, despite the fact it was among the bunch approved by the allegedly corrupt officers.

“While we are satisfied there is sufficient evidence to establish a reasonable suspicion of fraud by a department officer in relation to the processing of certain student visas for Nigerian citizens, we are not satisfied there is sufficient evidence to establish a reasonable suspicion that this applicant’s visa was obtained as a result of the fraud identified,” AAT deputy president Jan Redfern wrote.

The 21 visas were processed between February and April last year.

The scam allegedly involved criminals paying corrupt officials for Australian visas for Nigerian nationals. The officials were accused of bypassing mandatory checks and granting visas within days to people deemed ‘high-risk’.

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