(CMC) – Police have detained the chief executive officer of the Washington University of Barbados, Gopi Venkat Rao, after he was linked to a scheme that swindled hundreds of students of thousands of dollars.
Venkat Rao is wanted in India amid allegations that he had promised the students admission to foreign medical universities.
Soon after his arrest on Friday, nearly 200 students, mainly India, gathered for a meeting with a high level government team led by the Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde and including Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of People Empowerment Neil Rowe, and officials from the ministries of labour, health, and education, and the Welfare Department.
The students and faculty employees were only made aware of Venkat Rao’s deceit on Sunday, September 30 after media outlets India Times News Network and The Hindu newspaper had reported that over 200 students were duped by an educational consultancy firm of which he is the owner.
Six of Venkat Rao’s staff members were arrested in India, and police launched a hunt for the director, his wife Nikita Venkat and an associate identified as Zameer, The Hindu reported.
According to media reports, the fraudsters convinced clients that they had secured tie-ups with medical institutions in several countries. They allegedly promised them seats in medical colleges in the United States and China.
A consultant for the Washington University of Barbados, Subash Agarwal, questioned the procedures the unaccredited university went through to be registered in Barbados.
The on-line publication Barbados TODAY reported that Agarwal was speaking as a parent who invested US$32 000 in his daughter’s education.
He was recruited by the Venkat’s company in India and was assured that the institution met all the necessary health requirements by a video which was presented to the staff before their arrival in Barbados.
The video featured prominent Barbadian politicians guaranteeing that the institution met the necessarily stipulations, said Agarwal.
He claimed a month after the general elections, former Minister of Education Ronald Jones visited the campus and assured the staff and students that they would soon be accredited by the Barbados Accreditation Council.
“They provided a letter to all the consulting people, gave us videos of the health minister, Prime Minister, videos in their function at the university . . . . I thought all was well,” Agarwal explained while adding that those videos were also shown to potential students to encourage them to join the school. “They collect millions dollars of money, hundreds of students careers!”