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LAHORE: FIA starts crackdown against ‘fraudulent’ student consultants

* Agency has so far registered cases against 150 consultants, rounded up dozens of others.

By Imran Chaudhry

The Federal Investigation Agency in Punjab has launched a crackdown against student consultants who are involved in illegal activities such as human trafficking and minting money from people through fraudulent practices.

There are hundreds of such consultants working across the province who allure students mostly from the middle and lower classes in the name of making them win scholarships and providing easy visas to different countries across the world.

Sources in the FIA told Daily Times that a number of criminals were even running human trafficking businesses in the guise of student consultancies and that they had connections with the “international mafia of human smugglers in the region”.

They mostly lure the masses through advertisements in newspapers and convince them to go along with their plans to smuggle them to mostly European and other developed countries, provided they can pay an amount varying between Rs 1 million and Rs 2 million.

The sources said that having inadequate or no education makes such offers attractive and people end up selling their belongings and properties to pay these human smugglers, while a number of them are eventually betrayed by these agents and neither manage to get a better lifestyle promised in a developed country nor do they ever get to see any of their money.

However, the officials said that providing students with legal consultancy and guidance in applying for a visa was not a crime and those who were abiding by the local and international laws in their practices would not be affected by the operation.

Cases registered: It was also learnt that the FIA had already launched an operation against such consultants and had registered cases against 150 such people, while rounding up dozens of others.

The agency is searching for such fraudulent people through different methods, including by sending undercover agents to different consultants in order to check if any of them were involved in any illegal activity.

The agency is also trying to sort out the links between international human traffickers and local consultants in order to break the whole chain, which not only jeopardises the lives and property of citizens, but also violates international laws and earns a bad name for the country.

FIA (Monitoring) Additional Director Jawad Ahmad Qureshi told Daily Times that the agency had set up a number of teams, which were working on different grounds to bust the network of illegal consultants.

He said the agency personnel were collecting data regarding individual cases and also acting upon applications of citizens who had been scammed by such consultants. He said the data regarding the illegal activities of consultants was then sent to the agency’s central office in Islamabad for further processing.\08\05\story_5-8-2010_pg13_4

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