Indian police are trying to extradite Manav Bharti Charitable Trust (MBCT) chairman Raj Kumar Rana, his wife Ashoni Kanwar, daughter Aina and son Mandeep from Australia following a fake degree scam which has affected about 36,000 Indians, including 15 working in Singapore.
It is not known how they fled India. But the Times of India reported that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case found that Manav Bharti University (MBU), run by the family-formed MBCT, in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, had allegedly sold 36,000 fake degrees across 17 Indian states over 11 years. It said that, of the total 41,000 degrees issued by the university, only 5,000 have been found to be genuine.
"The number of fake degrees can vary. We presume it's much higher. It's a very well-organised racket which was being run for the last one decade," said Additional Director-General of Police (CID) N. Venugopal.
The probe revealed that each degree, related to technical subjects, was sold to students within and outside Himachal Pradesh for Rs100,000 ($1,825) to Rs300,000.
The SIT also rounded up a Jammu-based agent of the university who struck deals locally for selling the fake degrees.
According to ADGP Venugopal, the manager of MBU sold degrees outside the state through agents who received handsome commissions.
Himachal Director-General of Police Sanjay Kundu said that Mr Rana and his family amassed property worth Rs387 crore ($71 million) from the proceeds of the racket.
He added that this was the first money laundering case involving educational institutions in Himachal and police teams have recovered 55 hard disks from the university.
India's Enforcement Directorate (ED) said that Mr Rana "started this scam of issuance of fake degrees in the name of MBU in 2009 from his office in Karnal, Haryana".
It added that the money generated from the scam was invested by Mr Rana in several properties in his name as well as in the name of his son Mandeep and other family members.
"It has come out that these properties were undervalued so that illegal cash proceeds may be adjusted," it said.
The ED also said that Mr Rana constructed another institution named Madhav University (MU) in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, "through the illegal proceeds generated from issuance of fake degrees".
The ED has seized properties worth Rs194.17 crore belonging to MBU, MU, MBCT and Mr Rana.
An ED officer told Indo-Asian News Service that it has seized land and residential and commercial buildings worth Rs186.44 crore in Himachal and Rajasthan and six fixed deposits totalling Rs7.72 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
"The loans availed for construction of MBU was majorly repaid in the form of cash deposits in banks, which were nothing but illegal proceeds generated from issuance of fake degrees," the ED officer said.
Indo-Asian News Service
MOM PROBING 15 WORK PASS HOLDERS FOR LINKS TO FAKE DEGREE SCANDAL
The Ministry of Manpower is investigating 15 work pass holders working in Singapore who had declared qualifications from Manav Bharti University in their work pass applications.
MOM said on Wednesday that if the work pass holders were found to have falsely declared their educational qualifications, their work passes will be immediately revoked and they will be permanently barred from employment in Singapore.
"We may also prosecute them under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. The offence carries a fine of up to $20,000, up to two years' imprisonment or both," said the ministry.
In the last five years, an average of 660 foreigners were permanently barred each year from working in Singapore because they had submitted fake educational qualifications in their work pass applications.
Over the same period, an average of eight foreigners each year were convicted and penalised for false declarations of educational qualifications.
MOM noted that employers have the primary responsibility of ensuring the authenticity of academic qualifications of the foreigners they wish to hire.
This means that employers should have evaluated the candidate, including his qualifications, to ensure that he has the right skills and qualifications needed, said the ministry.
MOM said it also conducts its own checks after the employer submits the academic documents, as an additional safeguard.
The Straits Times