Claiming Goethe Institut agents, fraudsters cheat over 300 students aspiring to study, work in Germany

"I lost all my confidence as the institutes were working hand in glove with the agents to loot money. The fraudsters took away Rs 30,000 from my parents," shared a student
Students fall victim to scam | (Pic: EdexLive)
Students fall victim to scam | (Pic: EdexLive)

In what can only be described as a major educational scandal, over 3,000 students in Kerala, and hundreds from other southern states, have fallen victim to a fraudulent scheme allegedly orchestrated in the name of the Goethe Institut, which is authorised to promote German language and culture, stated a report in The New Indian Express.

Promising offline seats for job seekers to attend A1 to C2 level German language proficiency exams (which are required for jobs and studies in Germany), agents in Kerala in collaboration with the centres in Chennai, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Kochi have managed to fleece crores of rupees from foreign education aspirants desperate to pursue their dreams in Germany.

The traditional practice involves the Goethe Institutes administering their language proficiency exams online. However, the new revelations shed light on a 'sinister' operation that exploited the high demand for these certifications among students and job seekers.

The New Indian Express spoke to many students and parents who have fallen victim to the scam. Over 3,000 students have fallen victim to the scandal in Kerala alone, paying as much as Rs 30,000-90,000 per students, totalling Rs 9-27 crore.

How did it happen?
The perpetrators of the scam took advantage of the peculiarities of the exam conducted by the institute.

The institute's exam booking system provides candidates with a mere two-minute window to secure their desired exam slots. Seizing this momentary vulnerability, unscrupulous agents pounced on the opportunity, creating a situation in which students had no alternative but to pay exorbitant sums to their agents to guarantee their examination slots through offline mode.

Sources said the operators exploited the high demand for these certifications among students and job seekers. Even after spending a hefty amount besides the exam fee, the agents failed to arrange examination slots. It is alleged that institutions have unofficially appointed agents to fleece money from the students to ensure offline seats to get examination slots.

The scandal came to light a couple of weeks ago when the victims registered complaints against Shyam Kumar, owner of the D Agency at Unichira in Kochi, and his aide, Daniel Savichen, who allegedly looted crores of rupees from the students offering offline seats in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram centres in Kerala.

Shyam Kumar, of D Agency, and his aide, Daniel Savichen, could not be contacted for comments.

However, Goethe Institut said it was aware of the scam, and was working closely with students to take legal action to protect its reputation. “We strongly condemn agencies using the name of Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan to take money from students and aspirants. We will continue to work closely with our students and the wider community to rebuild trust and take all necessary steps to address concerns of students and their families, as well as to take strong legal action to protect our reputation,” said Dr Alexandra Mittler, Director, Language Programs South Asia, Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi, in response to a query from The New Indian Express.

Parents, students share woes
A parent of a student who also lost Rs 40,000 for paying the agents, said that for attending the B2 level examinations, the students only need to spend Rs 16,000 for booking exam slots, involving all four modules. But the time for booking is just two minutes.

“Since it is not possible for anyone to complete the registration within two minutes, the agents collect an amount ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 90,000 from the students, ensuring slots in the centres. We suspect the Goethe Institut and the agents are working hand-in-glove with insiders and were purportedly given preferential treatment in return for benefits,” he said.

Some of the students who paid a substantial amount of money are waiting for several months to get a chance to attend the examination. "I made a payment of Rs 16,000 to Daniel through Google Pay and assured me a slot for my B2 level examinations in Chennai. I booked a train to attend the examination. But only a few days ago, I came to know that no examinations were happening on the said day. They have looted my money," said Lovina Terese SV, a 19-year-old girl from Kozhikode.

Meanwhile, the students have filed cases against the agents across the state. The police have registered cases invoking Section 420 as well as Section 34 of the IPC.

"It was my dream to become an MBBS graduate. Since my parents are not in a good financial position to pursue my dream in India, I decided to go to Germany. Since the German government offers scholarships, it is possible for me to achieve my dream. But I lost all my confidence as the institutes were working hand in glove with the agents to loot money. The fraudsters took away Rs 30,000 from my parents," said a student hailing from Kollam who, along with other students, registered a case in the police station.

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