Ministry probes ‘visa fraud’

DUBAI — The Ministry of Labour is investigating the strange case of a Filipino who was supplied with copies of two visas that carried the same number and date of issue but had two different company names and two different designations.

By Criselda E. Diala And Eman Al Baik

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Published: Fri 24 Mar 2006, 10:37 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:33 PM

A ministry official told Khaleej Times that the case is being investigated with the assistance of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department. He assured that it is not possible for the ministry to issue two work permits carrying the same number and date in the names of two different companies in any case. "There must be something wrong here," he observed.

Mariano Aromin, Jr arrived in Dubai on November 20 last year holding two copies of his employment visa, both bearing the same visa number but the photocopy earlier sent to the Philippines carries a different company name and profession as compared to the original copy, which was handed to him at the Manila airport. However, unlike other expatriates who come to the emirate on employment visa, he remained jobless from day one until he returned to the Philippines four months later.

He had an original copy of a visa No 979078/1 dated October 10, 2005 for accountant-general post on the sponsorship of Harmonde Trading Est. Aromin's records, however, showed that the photocopy of the same employment visa initially sent to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) for his Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) certificate, which is a requirement for all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), bears the name Allead General Contracting and Maintenance LLC as his sponsor and his designation is shown as Site Foreman.

Copies of the visa would show that the mentioned texts on the photocopy appear to be type-written while the other is in computerised form." I had no source of living for the past four months. I was fortunate enough to have met some kind-hearted kababayans (fellow Filipinos) who understood my plight and gave me shelter and food when I finally ran out of pocket money," Aromin said.

He claimed that when he arrived in Dubai, he was not asked to sign any contract and was told that Harmonde Trading has already closed down. He waited for his supposed employer to offer him an alternative job but when that did not materialise, he was prompted to file a formal complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

His case was heard twice by the Ministry's Labour Dispute Department (LDD), first on March 13, then on March 20. During his initial hearing, the LDD suggested that both parties settle the case amicably by requiring Harmonde Trading to give Aromin a job or to cancel his visa and provide him with a one-way ticket to the Philippines.

Aromin did not agree to compromise because he also wanted the company to pay for his back wages, which would amount to Dh12,000 or Dh3,000 per month as verbally agreed upon by Aromin and his recruiter, a Filipina named Maha A.

But since Aromin does not have a contract to support his claim regarding an agreed monthly salary of Dh3,000, the LDD said they cannot demand the company to pay him the amount.

Following the hearing, Aromin said the company's PRO spoke with him and said that he will try to ask the management to give him between Dh5,000 to 6,000 and an air ticket. Khaleej Times tried to interview the PRO but the latter said he cannot give any comments.

Prior to arriving here, Aromin had talks with Maha A. and her sister who is based in Aromin's hometown of San Fernando, La Union, north of the Philippines. He spoke with Maha A. through overseas phonecalls.

"I was told to trust them. They asked me to send Php300,000 (around Dh20,000) to Dubai, which I deposited in two bank transactions under the name of a certain Merlie Medina, another sister of Maha A. I was told that Php250,000 was for my employment visa and Php50,000 was for the so-called bond. But they didn't explain to me what the bond was for. I also paid for my own one-way plane ticket which costs Php20,162 (around Dh1,300)," Aromin disclosed.

All the required documents of the POEA like the PDOS certificate, employment contract under Allead General Trading, and Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA) certificate have been arranged for him by Maha A.'s sister. His signature, meanwhile, did not appear on the employment contract.

Aromin said when he went to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila on November 19, the original copy and photocopy of his visa and other papers, including an employment contract for an Abu Dhabi company called Allead General Trading and Construction, was handed to him.

When Khaleej Times attempted to reach Allead General Trading, the phone number listed on the contract was no longer operational.

Aromin added that as soon as he reached Dubai, he was made to sign a waiver which indicated that he will take care of his own accommodation and that the company paid for his ticket.

Maha A., meanwhile, said when their company, Harmonde Trading Est., closed down, they offered Aromin a job in one of their other companies but he refused to report for work. Aromin denied being offered a job and added that he has been following up his employment and the processing of his labour card but to no avail.

The Filipina also mentioned that Aromin cannot sue their company because he has signed a waiver in the Philippines clearing Harmonde Trading of any responsibility. Aromin confirmed that he did sign a waiver back home and that he was not given a copy of the document.

Khaleej Times requested for a copy of the waiver but was told by Maha A. that she would have to check first with their lawyer if the document can be released to the Press. Additional inquiries by Khaleej Times were not entertained by her.

On March 14, Aromin received news from the Philippines that his father passed away. His case was finally settled on March 20 when he agreed to accept Harmonde Trading's offer for a one-way plane ticket, his passport, and Dh 3,000. He added that the LDD representative who heard his case refused to see the specimen copies of his visa when he tried to present it.

"I would have wanted to pursue the case further and seek justice but I am desperate to go back home and pay my last respect to my father," Aromin told Khaleej Times. He left Dubai on Thursday, March 23, in time for his father's burial service the following day.

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