A former university principal and several others attached to a University in Taiwan were charged with aggravated fraud by prosecutors, over their alleged involvement in recruiting Sri Lankans to study in Taiwan and then sending them to work illegally at a slaughterhouse.
Those charged in the case include the former principal, Huang Yi-chun, two university employees and three recruitment agents, according to the Shilin District Prosecutors Office.
In their investigation into the case, the prosecutors found that the three agents traveled to Sri Lanka in 2017 and hosted a recruitment event there.
They told students that they could come to study at a Taiwanese university for free and that the school would offer them work and internship opportunities, although the students would have to pay US$1,000 (NT$28,200) up front for their flights and visas, the prosecutors said.
After 69 of the Sri Lankan students signed the deal and paid the fee, the prosecutors said the agents began looking for universities to which they could send the students and contacted Huang.
Huang was the principal of the University of Kang Ning at the time, which operated two campuses in Tainan and Taipei.
The agents told Huang that they could arrange for Sri Lankan students to study at her university and that they had already talked with a food processing company over where the students would work, their salaries and their accommodation, the prosecutors said.
As Huang was worried about the low number of students who had enrolled that year, which would lead to a reduction in the school's enrollment quota and a cut in government subsidies, she agreed to the agents' deal, the prosecutors said.
The Sri Lankans arrived in Taiwan in late 2017, 50 of whom were sent to work at a slaughterhouse for 40 hours per week before they had received work visas. They only attended classes for two days a week at the university's Taipei campus, the prosecutors said.
The other 19 students refused to work at the slaughterhouse due to their religion and went to school at the Tainan campus, the prosecutors said.
It was only when the slaughterhouse students began speaking out about their mistreatment did Huang arrange for them to study at the Tainan campus as well, according to the prosecutors.
Local media began reporting on the case in November 2018.
According to the prosecutors, the university officials were charged with aggravated fraud because the university had unlawfully profited from the Sri Lankans, as their enrollment meant that the school received a NT$40,000 government subsidy.
The three agents were also charged with aggravated fraud, in addition to violations of the Employment Service Act for illegally referring foreign nationals to work for a third party, the prosecutors said.(CNA)