Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Ford Motor Company
The "Caped Crusader"? No, it is convicted visa crook Andrew Battman who has left hundreds of Filipinos out of pocket in yet another NVQ training college disaster - former students and staffers of Caring Careers will not see the Batmobile driving around Oxfordshire's leafy roads; nor are they likely to see their money repaid despite promises to do so
Yet another great number of Filipino hopefuls fall victim to the dreaded NVQ training disease in the UK, losing a lot of money into the bargain.
After the disasters of Affinity Training, Healthcare Training Academy and Precision Training among many others, the name of Caring Careers Training, run by convicted visa crook Andrew Battman and his son James Hamilton from serviced offices in Oxfordshire, can now be added.
Filipino students posing for photos outside the offices of Caring Careers
Certainly Mr Battman does not have a Batmobile, and is most certainly not part of any dynamic duo, as many seriously out of pocket Pinoys can attest.
Don't bother going to the offices of Caring Careers in Bicester, they moved out over two months ago, as many people, including creditors and bailiffs attempting to recover money have found out
Caring Careers Training, one of four similarly named companies owned by the Battman family, have effectively closed, and efforts by Battman to get his companies struck off at Companies House to evade debts have been forestalled. His application for striking off has been blocked until at least February 2011 by officials at the Companies House branch of the British Dept of Trade & Industry (or BIS as it is now known).
This ruse of striking off is often used in an attempt to get around settling debts, rather than going through liquidation where a full examination takes place, something he evidently does not want to happen.
UK businesses are allowed to have themselves struck off the register, however they must fulfil certain criteria, a very important one is that "...it has settled trading or business debts in the previous three months." This is definitely not the case of Battman's companies.
Although he has protested in the past that the Home Office's Borders Agency have given him a clean bill of health, this being in respect of his being listed in the register of sponsors (successor to the old DIUS register), the Borders Agency have confirmed a rather different story, in that although he is still listed on the register as a "B" (highly restricted) sponsor, this is only so that the affairs of CCT can be wound down and that he has agreed to surrender his license. (See Home Office statement below)
There is also the matter of many creditors who have got judgements against him in the County Courts for debt. Just like the hundreds of hopeful students, they would like to be paid.
Hundred's of Filipinos paid for NVQ training, hoping to get positions in the UK through Battman's Caring Careers company; this was mainly via agents based in the Philippines, one company in particular being based in both Davao and Baguio run in the Davo & Cagayan De Oro case by husband and wife team, Jay and Jennifer Mariano, and in the case of Baguio by Jay's brother Eduardo who is also a professor. These acted for CCT under the name of CCL UK Visa Assistance.
These agents are now facing hostile calls for repayment from many would be students who have not left the Philippines. There is also the case that students who did enter the UK were left high and dry, having paid vast sums of money and facing not only poverty, but possible deportation as well. Luckily, most found training posts through other companies, but naturally they had to pay yet again.
No refunds from the not so dynamic Battman.
In the case of the agents in Mindanao & Baguio, Balita Pinoy has received copies of scores of bank transfer statements showing that thousands of pounds were transferred in payment of the first years tuition fee for individual students. (See sample below). Battman did say to all students they would get refunds from him. They are still waiting.
At least 500 students passed through Battman's tender hands, so to speak, paying up front fees of around £2,000 each, plus a monthly amount of £100 for a period of two years out of their pay. In total, they would be expected to pay around £5,500 over a two year period.
However, Balita Pinoy has reliable information that as early as September of 2009, Battman was sacking assessors and other staff of CCT, leaving students who had already entered the UK with no training meaning no possibility of gaining the essential NVQ qualifications, that he was having problems of getting his sponsorship letters for visas passed by the British Embassy in Manila (ending with students being left high and dry with no visas) and worst of all, was already setting in place a train of events that would lead to another NVQ training disaster. (See below for two sample refusal letters by the Entry Clearance Officer in the British Embassy in Manila.
This failure was in the main because although the British Embassy had supplied sample documentation showing how they expected the letters to be written, this was not complied with. According to Jay Mariano, this was in spite of personal appeals to CCT in Bicester, in one case being told by Battman's son, James Hamilton, that it would "...take too many man hours..." to redraft the letters and that they (CCT) would only submit amended letters if the originals were refused.
After analysis of the mass of documentation and emails supplied to Balita Pinoy, along with interviews with various concerned parties, it is clear that Battman, along with his son, assumed there was a gravy train in existence that they would board to the promised land of riches with no great effort, just the hard earned money of hundreds of Filipinos.
However, the British regulatory authorities, along with the Learning Skills Council in the UK were not satisfied with Battman's business probity.
Battman then started to try to blame everyone around him for the various disasters, everyone that is, but himself. There was one business disaster he could not try to blame on anyone else, and pleaded guilty to it in Oxfordshire's Banbury magistrates court in February of this year. This was a visa fraud charge brought by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) relating to a complaint brought by a Filipina that Battman had taken money off her to arrange a visa. The charge was under section 91 of the British Immigration Act, and Battman was fined £580, ordered to pay compensation of £1,250 to the complainant, and ordered to pay costs of £622 to towards the prosecution. (See OISC statement on this matter below)
The OISC generally only bring charges when a non-registered person is offering visa advice and services and is not registered with them (a legal requirement) or a qualified lawyer. This charge did not even belong to CCT, but to yet another company associated with Andrew Battman, CBC Support Service Ltd. Investigations by Balita Pinoy show that this specific company was indeed registered as a visa/immigration advisor with the OISC, but surrendered this registration in 2006. After this time, it was illegal for it to offer advice or services in anything to do with immigration.
Further investigations show that the website of CBC Support is not active, although the domain is current and is registered until 4th March 2012. This website is http://www.cbc-support.co.uk
and is registered to CBC SUPPORT SERVICES LTD with the address being 161 Merganser Drive, Bicester, OX26 6UG, United Kingdom. Which is the same town as Caring Careers is, or was, based in. Don't bother going to the website, as with Battman's Caring Careers website, it is down.
What is even more intriguing about CBC Support Service/s Ltd is that Companies House appears to have no record of such a company of either name. Claiming a limited company (Ltd) status in the UK is a legal issue; if you are not a limited company, you are not allowed to claim it. Maybe there is a simple explanation for this not being listed in the Companies House register.
Battman also tried to give himself credibilty by getting a photograph taken of him with the British Ambassador to the Philippines, and using this photo, among others, as part of his "respectability" front.
The truth behind this photo was in fact that the occasion was a social event, the Independence Day celebrations held in Oxford in June of 2009, and Ambassador Lillie was there only because he had recently been appointed to his post and happened to come from Oxford.
Ambassador Lillie being photographed with Battman
Another of Batman's attempts at respectability with the Filipino community
Investigations have discovered that no business was discussed between Battman and the Ambassador. (See statements made by both the UK embassy in Manila and RP's embassy in London below). This meeting was also the first time that Battman introduced himself to representatives of the Philippine embassy, although no business was discussed with them either.
In fact, Battman, knowing there would be consular representation from the Philippine Embassy, and it was heard on the grapevine that the new British Ambassador to the Philippines would be attending the function at the John Radcliffe Hospital, made very sure he was there, along with a cohort to take opportunistic snapshots.
The Philippine embassy in London were then approached by Battman in September of 2009 in an attempt to promote his company, but Battman failed to follow through with any meetings. Then in the spring of this year the embassy was flooded by complaints from students and others about the disaster that was unfolding. The RP Embassy started to look into the matter, and although limited by various diplomatic treaties as to their powers, did as much as is legally possible, including making representations to the Borders Agency. The Philippine Embassy's Consul General has outlined to Balita Pinoy their efforts, both officially and behind the scenes.
As far back as September of 2009 concerns were being raised in the British embassy in Manila, when they started to reject sponsorship letters issued by CCT as being inadequate. This started to ring alarm bells, with aspiring students who had submitted applications getting understandably upset.
Things were to go even more horribly wrong, culminating in the botched dismissal of assessors in the fall of 2009, and notices going out to students that they were to take a "holiday", where no tuition would take place whilst "restructuring" would happen. At this, students started to take fright, and when they intimated they wished to change to new training providers, the un-dynamic Battman started to show his true colors by trying to bully students into not deserting the obviously sinking ship. Even though his students were to receive no tuition, he did not wish to let go of the geese who were laying the golden eggs. Battman also proposed dramatically increasing the price students would pay, upping the total cost from around £5,000 to over £8,000, really making the whole exercise uneconomic.
Scores of emails and bank transfer documents Balita Pinoy has obtained show part of the situation within CCT. The funniest, in an ironic sort of way, is from Battman himself detailing his version of events, and stating his health started to deteriorate in February of this year. He omitted to mention this may have coincided with his appearance before Banbury Magistrates Court on visa fraud charges.
He also stated in this email that the Borders Agency gave him a clean bill of health in an inspection related to his company's sponsorship status.. A perusal of the statement issued by the Home Office this week (published below) shows the truth to be rather different, his clean bill of health being akin to that of someone with typhoid.
The statement issued this week by the British Embassy in Manila also shows things rather different to those claimed by Battman. A glance at a letter of refusal by an entry clearance officer in the British Embassy in Manila dated last September confirms this sorry state of affairs.
Staff relations at CCT's Upper Heyford offices were going downhill very fast, with Batman making allegations of theft of money (large amounts), especially from a former director of CCT. In this specific case of allegations of theft, Battman claimed the director had stolen sums of money, variously supposed to have been around £50,000. But these claims were only made in phone calls and e-mails. And they were never made positively public with a name, just "hinted" at the identity.
This was in fact an exercise in intimidation, it failed, but caused considerable distress to the person concerned. She was forced to complain to her local police of harassing techniques, and after an investigation, Battman and his cohorts desisted.
In another rather more disturbing case, the managing director of a rival company involved in NVQ training has told Balita Pinoy that he was telephoned by Battman; and in his usual threatening and bullying manner, at one point in the phone call told this person that he would come around and shoot him.
It appears the police were subsequently called, and after investigations, Battman was issued with a police caution on the charge of threatening behavior. This will remain on his police record for at least 2 years; the conviction in Banbury court will remain on his record for 10 years.
The students paid for services they never received, and it looks now that they are never likely to receive. The promises from Battman of refunds have totally evaporated.
The agents transferred the money to CCT in Oxford in good faith as is shown by the bank records, the students paid the money in good faith; unfortunately for the students and agents, Battman acted in rather bad faith and trousered the money without fulfilling his side of the bargain, namely to get the students visas and training in the UK. And after seeing Battman's emails complaining and blaming everyone else for the collapse, it rather asks the question, where is all the money?
Maybe he is paying for a Batmobile after all!
Attempts to get hold of Mr Battman to put questions to him by phone and email, as well as trying to make contact via an ex-employee who stated Mr Battman was willing to talk to the press, came to nothing. Calls and emails went unanswered.
More revelations in Part II next week - statements immediately below
Official statements on the CCT/CCL case
BRITISH HOME OFFICE /BORDERS AGENCY
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "Caring Careers Training Limited has been unable to bring in any students from outside the European Economic Area since the British Embassy in Manila identified concerns about its recruitment practices. The centre is continuing to trade while it is being wound down. Once complete, Mr Battman will surrender his licence.
"If any students feel that they have had money taken from them illegally then they should seek resolution via the appropriate legal channels."
BRITISH EMBASSY MANILA
We can confirm that our Ambassador attended the Oxfordshire Filipino Community independence day in June 2009 before he took up his post in the Philippines. During the course of this event the Ambassador met Mr Battman on a social basis but had not discussed any matters relating to the recruitment of Filipino students into the UK.
The United Kingdom Border Agency is responsible for the licensing arrangements of UK educational sponsors who bring in students to the United Kingdom from outside the European Union. Since February this year Caring Careers have not been able to recruit any new students from the Philippines.
PHILIPPINE EMBASSY LONDON
1. The Philippine Embassy in London first met Mr. Battman and Mr. Mariano who introduced themselves to Embassy representatives at a social event in celebration of Philippine National Day in Oxford, specifically at the John Radcliffe Hospital in June 2009. The event was hosted by the Filipino Community of Oxford under the leadership of Mr. Ariel Lanada, one of the most active Filcom leaders in the area. ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau Chief Danny Buenafe can confirm it was a mainly social event, where the now UK Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie, was also invited as he is originally from Oxfordshire. As you very well know, in such events, photographs in a social setting are normally taken as the photos of Amb. Lillie and Mr. Battman show but do not mean direct invovlement or even knowledge in the particular business concerns of people.
In the case of UK student visa applications, the Philippine Government or any foreign government for that matter cannot comment on the visa policies/regulations of other countries. If there are any illegal acts committed by schools or licensed sponsors then that would be dealt with by the proper UK authorities.
The Embassy was under the impression that back in mid-2009, the company was just starting to recruit in earnest with only a few batches in UK at that time. And at that time, they still had UKBA clearance and their applicants were being granted student visas by the UK Government.
2. There was no other contact with Mr. Battman, Mr. Mariano or their school until a few months later, around September when they called on the new Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo, Mr. Reynaldo Catapang, Deputy Chief of Mission, the undersigned and Ms. Cecile Santos, the Cultural Officer. Their basic request was for in the future for the Embassy to send representatives to give talks to their Filipino students on basic documentary requirements and to send a Social Security System (SSS) or Pag-Ibig representative to talk about benefits and programs. We requested more information about the school and if possible to check the premises to see if we could hold a talk there. After that brief call, we did not receive any further requests or contact from the said school
3. Fast forward to around late Spring of 2010 when a group of students allegedly duped by Caring Careers copy furnished the Embassy an email addressed to Mr. Mariano and Mr. Battman demanding refunds for services not rendered. This is the first time we heard of there being problems with the school
While we were only cc'd I still sent a reply advising Mr. Battman to please answer the allegations of the complainants and to seek a resolution of the matter. The reply of Mr. Battman was in the form of a dramatic email chronicling his ill health, his loss of business, money, etc.
4. The Embassy advised the applicants, in particular a gentleman based in Papua New Guinea who spent for the fees of a close relative, to discuss the following options:
a. find a relative of one of the applicants (a next-of-kin) based in the UK as there was bound to be someone whose application was financed by a family member already based in the UK and consider authorizing this person to file a complaint with the Office of Fair Trade. We noted though that while OFT usually grants favourable decisions to victims, the difficulty is always in enforcing this decision
b. To discuss and consider filing a separate charge or recovery action against the agent of Caring Careers in the Philippines as there is always some form of liability on the part of an agent for a principal. However, the extent of the liability would have to be determined by legal counsel depending on the scope of representational authority given by Caring Careers to their agent in the Philippines.
c. For a next-of-kin of one of the victims to report the matter to the UK Police so there is at the very least some record of a complaint against Mr. Battman or the school
d. To report this to the UK Border Agency. However, the Embassy did also mention this to UK BA officials during one call as a matter which they could investigate.
One option is to pursue both a case in the Philippines and in the UK. One complainant has sought assistance from the Embassy in contacting Lloyd's Bank as the payment was made to a Lloyd's account in the UK. I cannot disclose the name of the complainant as I do not have authority to do so but we already furnished him the relevant data and contact person in Lloyd's Bank per the bank's advice to the Embassy. So hopefully the complainant's lawyer has already sent a request to Lloyds to assist them in determining if payment was received. If there are other complainants in need of the same contact details, we can most easily provide this for them.
At this point in time, we cannot really say if there was any complicity between Mr. Battman and his agents to defraud students. As to liability of both or only one of the parties (i.e. only the principal) this is something the legal counsels are in a best position to determine because we do not know the exact nature of the principal-agent relationship between Mr. Battman and his associates.
Theresa Dizon de Vega
Minister and Consul General
Embassy of the Philippines
Mr Battman was the adviser/owner of CBC Support Service Limited which was registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) from May 2004 to November 2006. The organisation then withdrew from regulation by the OISC.
Acting on a complaint, the OISC brought a prosecution against Mr Battman for providing an immigration service contrary to section 91 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
He pleaded guilty to the offence at Banbury Magistrates Court and was sentenced on 19 February 2010. He was fined £580, ordered to pay compensation of £1,250 and costs of £607.
JAY MARIANO - OF CCL UK VISA ASSISTANCE SERVICES, DAVAO & CDO
I am aware of the many complaints against CCT/CCL here in the Philippines and in the UK, including to the Philippine Embassy in the UK.
I have been put in a bad light in most of the complaints simply because they (the complainants) were no longer receiving any answer from the school where they enrolled (Caring Careers Training) nor from its Managing Director, Mr. Andrew Battman; nor from the school's Director of Operations, Mr. James Hamilton. I believe you are already aware that the problem stemmed from the fact that the visa letters issued by CCT in August up until September of 2009 were not recognised by the visa office here in Manila for one reason or another which resulted to the "en masse" refusals of the Tier 4 visa applications of the student-candidates.
With these developments, Mr. Battman emailed the students and advised them to directly communicate with him (Mr. Battman) and gave the students their options; among the options being the refund of the school tuition deposits paid by the students directly to the Lloyds Bank account of CCL/CCT in Bicester. The students sent Mr. Battman and Mr. Hamilton the letter requesting for a refund, however, both Mr Battman and Mr Hamilton did not make good of their promise to refund the students. Instead, they ceased communicating with the students. Hence, my brother Ed and myself, including my wife and our staff were subjected to complaints even if the ugly turn of events were not our fault. Up until this very moment, we are still facing court litigations for the wrongdoings of Mr. Battman and Mr. Hamilton.
Unfair as it may seem, as it really is, we are still trying to sort out the mess that Mr. Battman and Mr Hamilton had caused. We are pursuing the refund of the tuition fee deposits of the students in the UK with the help of friends. We are hoping that the British Government would see the fact that many student-candidates had in fact been victims of this very unfortunate incidence and in effect, would investigate and would cause the fast tracking of the refund of the students. I am also hoping that the Philippine Embassy in the UK will also work hand in hand with the appropriate British government agencies to resolve this issue.
We stand by our commitment to the students to do everything to the most of our abilities, with the prayer, that they will get their refund in the near future.
Jay Mathew Mariano
JAY MARIANO - OF CCL UK VISA ASSISTANCE SERVICES, DAVAO & CDO
Batid ko ang mga hinaing laban sa CCT/CCL dito sa Pilipinas maging sa UK, kasama na ang mga hinaing sa Embahada ng Pilipinas sa UK. Karamihan ng mga hinaing ay ipinadala sa akin sa pamamagitan ng email habang ang iba ay sa pamamagitan ng mga liham mula sa mga abogado ng mga estudiyante.
Nalagay ako sa alanganin sa karamihan ng mga hinaing dahil lamang sa ang mga estudiyante ay di na nakakatanggap ng anumang kasagutan mula sa Caring Careers Training maging mula sa Managing Director nito na si Mr. Andrew Battman o di kaya ay sa Director of Operations na si James Hamilton. Sa aking paniwala, alam mo na na ang pinagmulan ng lahat ng ito ay ang katotohanang ang mga visa letters na ipinadala ng CCT nuong Agosto at Setyebre ng taong 2009 ay di tinanggap ng visa office ng UK dito sa Manila sa kung anumang kadahilanan na kung saan ay nagresulta ng pangkalahatang pagkakarefuse ng mga estudiyante sa kanilang application para sa Tier 4 visa.
Dahil sa pangyayaring ito, sumulat si Mr. Battman sa pamamagitan ng email sa mga estudiyante at pinayuhan silang makipag-ugnayan ng direkta sa kanya at binigyan sila ng kanilang pagpipilian; isa na ditto ag pag-refund ng perang ibinayad nila bilang tuition fee deposit na kung saan ay ibinayad nila sa pamamagitan ng Lloyd's Bank account ng CCT/CCL sa Bicester. Sumulat ang mga estudiyante kay Mr Battman at kay Mr Hamilton na nagsasaad ng kanilang kahilingan na sila ay marefund ngunit di tinupan nina Mr Battman at Mr Hamilton ang kanilang obligasyon. Dahil dito, kami ng aking kapatid na si Ed pati na ang aking asawa at mga kasamahan sa opisina ay idinemanda ng mga estudiyante kahit pa hindi namin kasalanan ang mga pangyayari. Magpasahanggang ngayon, nahaharap pa rin kami sa kabi-kabilang kaso dahil sa kamalian nina Mr. Battman at Mr. Hamilton.
Hindi man patas na tingnan, sapagkat sa katotohanan, di naman talaga patas, hinaharap namin ang kamaliang nagawa nina Mr. Battman at Mr Hamilton. Pinipilit pa rin naming magawan ng paraan na makapag-refund ang mga estudiyante na nagging biktima din sa pangyayaring ito sa tulong na rin ag mga kaibigan. Umaasa kaming makikita ng Gobyerno ng UK ang katotohanang maraming estudiyante ang nagging biktima at ng sa ganun ay maimbestigahan nila ang pangyayaring ito at magkaroon ng lunas at mapabilis ang refund sa ating mga estudiyante. Umaasa din ako na ang Embahada ng Pilipinas sa UK ay makikipagtulungan sa mga ahensiya ng Gobyerno ng UK upang matugunan ang problemang ito.
Nananatili po kami sa aming commitment sa mga estudyante na gagawin namin ang lahat sa abot ng aming kakayanan, kasabay ng panalangin, na sana ay makukuha na rin nila ang kanilang refund sa lalong madaling panahon.
Jay Mathew Mariano
SAMPLE BANK TRANSFER DOCUMENT
(Students name and ID card details obscured)
Click images to expand
SAMPLE REFUSAL LETTER 1
SAMPLE REFUSAL LETTER 2
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