Travel agency busted for running ‘cashback’ visa scam

Travel agency busted for running ‘cashback’ visa scam

A Melbourne travel agency has come under fire for “charging” workers for staying in Australia on a sponsored visa.

Little Collins St-based agency, Abella Travel, which operates in both Melbs and South Korea, is being taken to the Federal Circuit Court over accusations it ran a “cash back” visa scheme, per Herald Sun.

According to the publication, the Fair Work Ombudsman claims the agency and its director Juong Hyung Lee underpaid two South Korean nationals by more than $17,000 below the minimum wage.

On top of that, they forced one employee to pay back more than $20,000 of her wages in return for her 457-visa sponsorship.

The employee agreed to the demand, and per the Herald Sun was told to pay pack between $289 and $387 in cash each week for around a year in return for her visa, per court documents.

The company has back-paid $6,505.94 to the workers so far, with another $31,822.12 still outstanding.

Per the Herald Sun, Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully said the matter was just one of a bunch of ‘cashback’ schemes brought to the courts recently.

“I am concerned that cashback schemes are being utilised by unscrupulous operators in an attempt to get around record keeping laws and disguise serious underpayment of wages,” Scully said, per Herald Sun.

The Abella Travel agency has come under the radar of the Fair Work Ombudsman previously as well, and in 2014 was found to have underpaid another South Korean employee more than $4200.

“Repeated interactions with my agency mean this employer is aware of their workplace obligations in relation to wages rates, leave entitlements and record keeping requirements,” Scully told Herald Sun.

“Visa holders are entitled to the same minimum rates and conditions as Australian workers.

“The fact that we have previously put this employer on notice and the vulnerable status of the employees as visa-holders were significant factors in the decision to commence legal action in this case.”

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