Sukhwant Sona Singh Bhela has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for setting up a “sophisticated” visa scam targeting Indians wanting to move to Australia, Cairns Post reported.
The former Cairns businessman, the Court was told, lured people from Punjab to pay $50,000 each to live and work in Australia.
Sukhwant misrepresented himself as a registered migration agent and brought 43 applicants into Australia between January 2006 and June 2009. He even supplied false evidence of English language proficiency in order for applicants to qualify for a visa, while most of them had a very limited grasp of English.
Mr. Singh lied to the authorities when some employers withdrew their sponsorship, even going to the extent of having one of the applicants phone the authorities, pretending to be one of the sponsors.
The court was told he denied the charges and was found guilty by a jury of 97 immigrations crimes.
He had maintained that he had not asked for a fee and had just done it to help people.
“I accept you set up a very substantial operation for profit,” Judge Brian Harrison said
“The jury rejected outright your evidence in that regard and the reason for that came from your own mouth,” the Judge added
Sukhwant’s phone intercepts revealed he had told several applicants that his fee was $50,000.
Though it was not clear how many actually paid.
“No money trail was ever established,” Judge Harrison said.
Defence barrister James Sheridan said his client was only helping those in need.
He said Sukhwant had lost his family investments, his restaurant and property and that he planned to restart on his release.
Singh was jailed for 3½ years with a parole eligibility date set at halfway.