Calls for fraud investigation into language college closure

Transparency Ireland has called for a fraud investigation to refunded €500,000 in fees owed to students from a language school.

Shelbourne College shut its doors abruptly last November, and never refunded fees paid by students abroad

“We were contacted by a student who had suffered a loss as a result of the advanced fees he had paid to the college,” said Susheela Math, legal counsel at Transparency. The student lives in India and paid €5,000.

“Students were getting increasingly distressed and that’s what led us to release the press statement.”

Transparency International Ireland is a whistleblower and anti-corruption advocacy group. It made an appeal to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) to investigate the closure but has received no reply.

Around 150 were affected by closure and 17 schools have closed since 2014.

“Most of these colleges have a requirement of students to pay upfront fees. It’s an easy way to make a lot of cash,” said David Moore from the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS).

Moore had the role of being one of the few voices for international students who lost money during the domino-fall of private colleges last year.

Last year he told the College View: “Shelbourne’s model was the most….we’ve never seen a college before that focused its efforts so squarely on recruiting students from countries that required them to obtain a visa first.”

A statement by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration service in January in response to Shelbourne’s closure said:

“A college taking money from students pending a visa application is fully aware that they have no entitlement to those funds until the student is confirmed as being allowed to come to Ireland as a student.

However, without legislation that places students’ fees in protected accounts, more colleges closed and kept the money or gave it to creditors .

Shelbourne director Adnaan Wahla is believed to have left Ireland.

“Walking away is entirely possible under Irish law. It’s a neat way to avoid financial scrutiny,” said Moore.

Aura McMenamin

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