The couple who established one of Perth's best-known Indian restaurant chains have been accused of running a visa scam where fellow Indians have allegedly been charged up to $50,000 each to jump the migration queue.
The Immigration Department has confirmed it is investigating Maya Masala founders Bhupinder Singh Grewal and his wife Parveen Kaur Grewal over claims they have been selling access to 457 visas and jobs in their restaurants.
Mr and Mrs Grewal, who are going through a divorce, have denied the allegations.
Mr Grewal called them "total rubbish" yesterday.
_The Weekend West _has spoken to a licensed migration agent who claims he worked for the Grewals on about 10 visa applications between 2012 and last year before turning whistle- blower when he discovered what he called "significant irregularities".
Three Indian nationals who claim they agreed to pay the Grewals after answering advertisements for chefs have also spoken out, alleging that they were left broke and facing deportation after their visa applications fell through.
In one case, a 30-year-old man attempted to take his own life after discovering he had lost what was his elderly parents' retirement savings.
Sukhmeet Singh claims he first met the Grewals in late 2011 when he applied for a job as curry chef at Maya Masala in Northbridge.
In a statement he made to police, he claims he was told by the Grewals that they could sponsor him on a 457 work visa if he agreed to pay them $50,000 up-front. Mr Singh claims that he waited several months to receive his visa but was told repeatedly by Parveen Grewal that it was still being processed.
When he finally contacted the Immigration Department for an update, he was told the application had been rejected and he was an illegal immigrant.
The department says it is an offence under the Migration Act to charge an employee any costs associated with their employment.
But it refused to discuss the investigation into the Grewals, saying only that it was an "active matter".
Mr Grewal, who is in Vietnam on business, has accused those making the allegations against him of lying.
"We have not committed any offence, nor have we ever asked anyone to pay us $50,000," he said.
Mrs Grewal also denied having ever accepted payments for visas.
Through her lawyer, she provided documents to _The Weekend West _showing the department had given her company - Nirmal Nominees - a clean bill of health in December.
Former Ethnic Communities Council head Suresh Rajan said he believed visa scams were rife in WA.
He said he had been warning the Government for years that a crackdown was needed but little appeared to have been done.
He said he had heard of cases where workers had been granted 457 visas but had never worked a day for the employer who sponsored them.
The workers themselves had to cover the cost of their own income tax and superannuation payments to keep up the appearance that they had legitimate jobs.
"I have been raising concerns about this issue for seven years now and the department has not seemed to have acted," Mr Rajan said.
Internal Immigration Department papers leaked to the media this week revealed efforts to stamp out visa fraud were minimal, particularly in WA.
_The Weekend West _is also aware of two unrelated investigations being held by WA Police into similar visa-related scams.