The director of a private third-level college in Dublin was arrested yesterday by gardaí investigating suspected bogus institutions aimed at foreign students, The Irish Times has learned.
The man was arrested early yesterday morning and held at Balbriggan Garda station before being released at 4pm.
The college he runs, which charges non-European students €4,800 for courses in computer studies, business, accountancy and tourism, was one of two raided by officers from the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) last week.
Yesterday’s arrest is the latest under Operation Feather, which was set up in March to investigate reports of "brass plate" or front companies that provide foreign students with false documents for visa applications. Another director of a private college supposedly specialising in management and IT was arrested in April and his school was closed down.
It is understood gardaí have in some cases been tipped off by students who were duped into paying up to €5,000 for courses that were not provided, or at institutions that had no physical presence at their registered address.
In one case, students were told they had to pay up to €2,000 to obtain the attendance documents required for a student visa renewal.
Though non-European students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week, the GNIB believes a significant number who enter the State on student visas come with the intention of working full-time.
However, sources stressed that their operations were aimed at the directors of colleges and not at the students, the great majority of whom had believed they would be attending reputable colleges and had suffered considerable financial loss.
Supt John O’Driscoll of the GNIB said "suspicions currently exist in relation to a number of colleges" and investigations had revealed suspected breaches of the Immigration Act, 2004, which deals with an individual’s permission to be in the State, and the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act, 2000, which suggests there may be people-smuggling involved.
The man detained yesterday was arrested under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Files are being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to this and other arrests made over recent months.