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Four Nigerians arrested in Austria over fake language test

Nigerians arrested in Austria over fake language test: The Styrian police arrested four suspects, three men and a woman with Nigerian roots, during the “Sudoku” operation in Graz on Tuesday morning. They are said to have passed language exams for other Nigerian citizens in Austria for a fee. 

For this purpose, forged passports were used in Nigeria and brought to Austria by courier. With the wrongly obtained certificates, social benefits and even citizenships were stolen.

Out of a total of 523 exams across Austria at relevant institutes that Nigerian citizens took in Austria from 2017 to February 2020, 184 were exposed as falsified. 61 of them could be assigned to the four arrested suspects and three accomplices.

The case was set in motion by an employee of the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF), where exams are taken. She had noticed that the same examinee had always started with different documents.

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The network in Graz had been investigated for around a year. Since December, the suspicion had been more and more confirmed and so there were five house searches on Tuesday from around 4:30 a.m. Numerous other documents were secured, the evaluation of which will probably take at least six months, said chief inspector Thomas Huber at the press conference in Graz, a few hours after the arrests. “A worthy graduation,” he said.

State Police Director Gerald Ortner described that the suspects had repeatedly taken language and integration tests for third parties in order to get wrong social benefits with the certificates they received.

The alleged perpetrators identified themselves during the checks with forged passports, in which a different photo – that of the perpetrator – was used in Nigeria. The manipulated documents were then brought to Austria by courier and plane and presented to the authorities. The certificates (language level A1 to B1) benefited “customers” who already lived in Austria and would otherwise not have passed the exams.

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According to Huber, the concerted operation went “without incident”. Around 70 officials were involved, including investigators from the State Criminal Police Office, service dog handlers and IT specialists. Hansjörg Bacher, spokesman for the Graz Public Prosecutor’s Office, said at the press conference that, among other things, investigations were being carried out on forgery of documents, criminal association, serious commercial fraud and by fraudulently obtaining residence permits and social benefits. If the damage is more than 300,000 euros, the penalty is up to ten years in prison.

However, the amount of damage cannot yet be estimated. In any case, it is in the six-digit euro range, Huber estimated. With the four arrested suspects, the public prosecutor wants to submit applications for remand detention. Incidentally, three of this quartet already have Austrian citizenship themselves.