Indian-origin couple arrested; charged with visa scam in Australia
An Indian-origin couple has been arrested and charged with a visa scam in which clients paid for fake marriages to Australian women
Melbourne: An Indian-origin couple has been arrested and charged with a visa scam in which clients paid for fake marriages to Australian women to enter the country.
The migration agent and his wedding celebrant wife Chetan Mohanlal Mashru and Divya Krishne Gowda – were arrested two days ago at their Oxley home in Brisbane’s southwest by Australian Federal Police.
Mumbai-born Mashru and his Australia-born wife Gowda were yesterday produced before the Brisbane Magistrates Court which granted them conditional bail.
Mashru and his wife, whose alleged racket was exposed by a Courier-Mail probe in April last year, face up to 10 years in jail and also 170,000 dollars each in fines if convicted.
During the hearing, the court heard that over 30 men and women whose marriages were allegedly arranged by the couple were among the prosecution’s witnesses.
Opposing the bail applications, Commonwealth Prosecutor Aimee Aisthorpe said the accused ran an “organized and ongoing operation” from March 2011 to March 2012 and they charged between USD 10,000 and USD 20,000 for each marriage.
Bank statements and marriage certificates were part of the evidence against the couple, the court heard.
“The defendant (Gawda) profited significantly from the offences…,” she said, adding “It’s difficult to comprehend a more serious offence of this type.”
The court heard that the couple had no ties to the community and their property portfolio has been retained by the police.
Aisthorpe said the couple fled their Oxley home for India after they were questioned by a journalist in 2012 about the scam. “They left the day after they we’re confronted and were gone for six and a half months,” she told the court.
Mashru, a second year law student, did not renew his migration agent registration after it lapsed last year.
Magistrate John McGrath later granted them bail on several conditions which included to report to a local police station three times a week, do not come within 300m of an international departure point and do not contact the prosecution witnesses.
Gawda was also instructed to surrender her passport while the police had already seized Mashru’s passport.
Mashru faces 17 counts of attempting to arrange marriage for visa application; 14 counts of fraud to influence visa applications and 18 offences under the commonwealth criminal code of dishonestly influencing a public official.
Gawda has been charged with 17 counts of attempting to arrange a marriage for visa application.
Their matters have been adjourned to the Commonwealth Callover Court in Brisbane on March 14.