India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken into custody the Protector of Emigrants (PoE), identified as A.L., in an alleged scam related to recruitment of nurses from Kerala to Kuwait, according to reliable Indian sources.
The man was arrested in Kochi, a major port city on the southwest coast of India, on charges of illegal hiring of nurses to work in Kuwait by recruitment agencies said to be based in Kochi, Mumbai, Changanassery and Adoor.
A court in Kochi had earlier rejected the anticipatory bail posted by the suspect. “He was questioned and was arrested today,” said the CBI official, who preferred to remain anonymous. The CBI took up the case in March following a raid by India’s Income Tax Department on a private recruitment firm that was allegedly taking huge sums of money in the form of ‘recruitment fee’ from nurses selected for employment in Kuwait.
The racket was busted after one of the nurses who passed the interview to work in Kuwait was asked to pay the fee. She later decided against taking up the job and asked for a refund. The recruitment agency allegedly refused to refund the money and the nurse approached the PoE, but failed to get help from A.L. It was around this time the Income Tax Department raided the office and found large sums of money at the office of the recruiting agency. Following reports in the media, the CBI took up the case and took the Protector of Emigrants into custody.
The owner of the Kochi-based recruitment agency, identified only as U.V., and reportedly based in the Middle East is said to have refused repeated requests from the CBI to make himself available for interrogation. His anticipatory bail has since been rejected. However, according to the CBI official, the bureau has begun proceedings against U.V., to appear for interrogation before the CBI.
The PoE, who is required to protect and give advice to all intending emigrants during their journey works under the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, and is responsible for granting emigration clearance to intending emigrants as per the procedure laid down in the Emigration Act of 1983. Earlier the CBI had filed three lawsuits against the country’s Protector of Emigrants in connection with the illegal hiring of nurses to work in Kuwait by recruitment agencies based in Kochi, Mumbai, Changanassery and Adoor, according to reliable Indian sources.
In the first lawsuit, CBI had named A.L. as the first accused for illegal recruitment by two recruitment agencies, both based in Mumbai. The PoE was named as the first accused for procedural lapses for failing to stop illegal recruitments.
In the second case, A.L. was named as the first accused for permitting illegal recruitment by another Kochi-based agency identified only as J.K. I.
In the third case, CBI had arraigned the first accused for permitting unauthorized recruitment by Changanassery-based agency P.A. Tours and Travels. According to CBI, the PoE permitted recruitments by Pan Asia in the name of Aroor-based Trust International Overseas Manpower after the expiry of its licence.
When recruitment agencies in India received kickbacks between KD 2,000 and KD 3,000 as some kind of ‘commission’ — the money which was reportedly shared between agents in India and their counterparts in Kuwait – the Government of India stepped in to streamline the recruitment of nurses at the height of corruption back home. The Indian Government said the recruitment of Indian nurses will be done only through the government agencies such as the Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC), Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department (NORKA-Roots) — the agency that looks after the welfare of the Kerala diaspora — and the Tamil Nadu Overseas Manpower Corporation Ltd (TNOMCL).