Fraud detectives are investigating the visa-for-jobs scheme run by Sydney businessman Lubo Jack Raskovic, who is accused of leaving dozens of migrants tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
The scheme, first revealed in a joint SBS-Fairfax investigation, offered hopeful migrants a regional job, as a pathway to a permanent-residency visa, in return for fees of up to $70,000.
Under the scheme employers in regional areas were offered "great incentives" of up to $12,500 if they hired a migrant for a job and sponsored them for permanent residency.
Queensland's Fraud and Cyber Crime Group has been in contact with former clients of Raskovic's company Global Skills and Business Services. Many of the jobs offered by Raskovic were in regional areas around Queensland.
A spokeswoman for Queensland's State Crime Command confirmed the investigation but said "as this is an on-going investigation we are not in position to comment any further".
Under current laws it is illegal to receive, offer or provide money in exchange for a sponsored work-visa arrangement. The penalties include up to two years' imprisonment and a fine of $75,600 for an individual and $378,000 for companies.
The laws don't just cover employers who accept payment in return for sponsoring a visa, they apply to any person in the supply chain. Money doesn't need to change hands to break the law, the mere offer is enough.
Griffith University academic Peter Lee, who is also a migration agent and a former migration specialist at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, said the scheme was possibly illegal.
"On the basis of information provided it does not appear legal," he said. "The risk of prosecution will be real; namely all three, or more, parties in the chain could be affected namely, the prospective sponsor, the prospective visa applicant and the intermediary and others that may be associated in the activity."
The company at the centre of the investigation, Global Skills and Business Services, was placed into liquidation last month with debts of more than $2.5 million to 45 creditors - many of them former clients.
According to invoices obtained by SBS and Fairfax Media, in the months before Global Skills was put into liquidation, companies linked to Mr Raskovic sought payment for more than $1 million for services including rent, management fees and consultants fees for Mr Raskovic himself. Among them was a company owned by his daughter which sought payment for almost $200,000.
Mr Raskovic, 59, is a former security consultant who has twice been banned from managing a company by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. He is understood to be working for two new entities providing similar business services, including one company - All Borders Pty Ltd - owned by his partner, Neo Tau, who shares his Bella Vista home in Sydney's North West.
Raskovic's scheme works by bringing together hopeful migrants with regional employers in the hope the partnership will result in a sponsored visa. But his services come with a hefty cost - as much as $70,000, with much of it paid upfront.
Many clients borrowed money from family and friends in their home country to pay his fees. Raskovic also provides migration advice and visa application documents to prospective employers.
However, in many cases the job doesn't work out. Former clients told Fairfax often the job is not what was explained to them. At other times, clients have no confirmation that a job actually existed, because they are restricted from speaking to the employer.
One employer, approached by Fairfax Media last week, said he had "never heard" of Raskovic or his company, despite being named in a letter of offer given to a former client.
Mr Raskovic has not responded to questions.
Anyone with information can contact Policelink on 131 444 or report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers.