Detectives probing the unaccredited Washington University of Barbados are likely to extend their investigations beyond accused fraudster and the school’s chief executive officer, Rao Venkat Gopi.
Assistant Commissioner of Police responsible for Crime, Eucklyn Thompson, has given the assurance that their investigations into the medical school which was opened in 2016 would not stop at Rao who remains on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds on fraud charges which were laid last Friday. Rao is also said to be wanted by authorities in his native India.
“The investigation is ongoing for sure. It may become more extensive . . . more exhaustive . . . as it intensifies daily. We will see how things go, but our investigators are hard at work in relation to this matter,” the crime chief told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“I don’t know if we can do that [stop the probe at Gopi]. I don’t know if it can just stop and go no further. It is obviously something that the public has become aware of, and in that regard, we would like to think we are professional enough to explore this matter to its fullest extent. So that’s what we are doing. The matter is being attended to by professionals in the organization,” Thompson said.
Rao appeared before Chief Magistrate Christopher Birch yesterday formally charged with four counts of evading liability, including passing $210,000 in bad cheques to the Casa Grande hotel that became home to the school. He also faced the indictable charge of evading liability at Furniture Limited trading as Builders Value Mart for a dishonoured cheque totalling $30,000.
Both the hotel and hardware store are owned by business icon Ram Mirchandani.
As unpaid bills piled up at the school, the mostly young Indian students were left stranded without food, electricity, water and money at the facility in Oldbury, St Philip. The school was closed with Gopi’s arrest on Friday.
While the medical institution was given a charter by the Ministry of Education, it still remains unaccredited by the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC), an arm of the education ministry. Granting of accreditation status to an institution is an expression of confidence in the institution’s mission and goals, the quality of faculty and students, the quality of academic programmes and the level and appropriateness of resources. Accreditation for international educational bodies and programmes is often guided by accreditation status in other countries.
The Washington University of Barbados has also not been accredited by the United States Department of Education’s National Committee on Foreign Medical Education Accreditation (NCFMEA), or by any other body empowered to certify medical schools in the region.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed to a Barbados Labour Party Christ Church South branch meeting that the Immigration Department had refused to grant work permits to the principals of the medical school because of its own suspicions.
Prime Minister Mottley has already said her Government would feed and housed the students, reach out to their governments, and arrange for them to continue their medical education elsewhere in Barbados if they so wished.
Even before this development, Government had been working on draft legislation since August to better manage and monitor all offshore educational institutions, particularly medical schools, she said.
Yesterday, Barbados TODAY contacted former minister of education Ronald Jones under whose watch the school was set up in 2016 but he declined to go into specific details on the matter, insisting that he be left out of the scandal. “I have nothing to say… nothing to say. I am a private citizen now. Lemme enjoy my private life. Not a word. I have nothing to say.”
Since leaving office and announcing his retirement from politics following the May 24 general election, Jones has assumed a working role at another offshore medical school also established during his ministerial tenure.
In late July, it emerged that Jones had been appointed vice-chancellor of the Bridgetown International University, housed in Building #2 of the Harbour Industrial Park, Harbour Road, St Michael. That school was set up in 2017.