MOM probing 15 work pass holders for links to Indian university fake degree scandal

The Indian university in the state of Himachal Pradesh had sold 36,000 fake degrees over 11 years. PHOTO: MANAV BHARTI UNIVERSITY/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower is investigating 15 work pass holders working here who had declared qualifications from Manav Bharti University in their work pass applications.

The Indian university in the state of Himachal Pradesh had sold 36,000 fake degrees over 11 years, the Times of India (TOI) reported earlier this month.

Of the 41,000 degrees issued by the university, only 5,000 are genuine so far, a special investigating team in India has found.

MOM said on Wednesday (Feb 17) 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.

Asia Polyurethane Manufacturing chief executive Erman Tan told The Straits Times that companies can do more stringent checks on their prospective employees, but they may not have sufficient resources to conduct thorough due diligence.

"This is especially so when companies are rushing to fill out positions," he said, adding that incidences of fake credentials tend to occur more frequently among lower level executives than those in higher offices.

One layer of checks can be if workers who suspect that their new colleagues are unqualified for their positions report this to their superiors, said Mr Tan, who is former president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute.

Universities can also help by publishing the names of their graduates online, he added.

According to TOI, the police in India have initiated the process to extradite the chairman of the Manav Bharti Charitable Trust - Raj Kumar Rana - from Australia.

The trust operates private universities, including Manav Bharti University, in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan in India.

The Indian authorities estimated that the trust chairman and his family had amassed property worth 3.87 billion rupees (S$71 million) from the proceeds of the racket.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story listed Mr Erman Tan as Singapore Human Resources Institute president. Ms Low Peck Kem succeeded him as president in April 2019. We are sorry for the error.

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