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Nurse bribes row takes new twist

VICTIMS of an alleged recruitment racket that preys on foreign nurses claim a senior BDF Hospital official could be involved in the scam.

They allege the official accepts bribes in exchange for granting jobs at the hospital.

The GDN reported earlier this month that a Bahrain recruitment agency was allegedly demanding bribes to help them secure jobs at hospitals.

However, relatives of nurses who claim they have handed over money say the official, who cannot be named for legal reasons, takes a cut to help make sure they get hired.

A hospital spokesman has denied the allegation, saying he "couldn't imagine" anyone from the BDF being involved.

He declined to comment further, but urged any hospital staff who paid bribes to get their jobs to come forward.

The spokesman added that no member of staff had come forward with such an allegation since the hospital appealed through the GDN on October 10 for them to do so.

However, several people have contacted the GDN to say they had a similar experience when they or their relatives applied for jobs through the agency, but said nurses feared losing their jobs if they spoke out.

Even though the company has never been named in media, they knew the firm in question and claimed its policy of allegedly accepting bribes was an "open secret".

"A few months back, an old man came to me saying that even after he paid BD500 to this Bahrain agency's chairman, the agency in Mumbai is asking for more money to get his daughter a job at the BDF Hospital," said an Indian computer engineer, who asked to remain anonymous.

"So I myself called up the chairman to find out the status of the job and he replied to me in the same spirit of arrogance.

"But somehow, after a couple of months, the old man's daughter got selected by the hospital through this agency.

"I have valid reasons to think that someone from the BDF is also involved in this scam.

"I myself know of two other candidates who paid BD500 around a year ago and are still waiting for an interview.

"The funny part is that if the candidates fail to get the job for any reason, they will not get their money back."

The Indian chairman of the agency is understood to have returned to India soon after the GDN first reported the allegations.

A number of people have accused the company - which also cannot be named for legal reasons - of continuing to demand bribes despite the probe.

One Indian man, a technician, said the agency chairman refused to accept cheques as they could later be used as evidence against him.

"I tried to bring my wife, a nurse, to Bahrain around four months back for a job at the hospital," he said.

"I contacted this recruitment agency chairman, who told me that I'll have to pay around BD1,200 in off-record cash.

"He convinced me that this was the only way my wife would get a job at the hospital and that I could take it or leave it.

"I agreed because I wanted my wife to join me here and I paid the initial instalment of BD500 that would make sure that my wife would pass the interview.

"Even after the GDN reports were published, he called me from India, where he had gone to recruit a new batch of nurses, to ask me for the next BD500.

"But I refused to give him the money because he could be caught at any moment, as the authorities are keeping an eye on him.

"If he is caught, I and many like me who have paid him money with no proof of receipt will lose it.

"I made it clear to him that my wife didn't want the job and I wanted my money back.

"But he returned only BD400 and told me that the remainder had been given to an official at the hospital."

Another Indian man told the GDN he was still waiting for the return of BD100 from the company chairman because he failed to get his wife a job.

"I demanded my money back and out of the BD500, he returned BD400," he said.

"The remainder he says I will get only when an official at the BDF Hospital returns it.

"I am now asking all the people I know who have given bribes for their wives' or sisters' jobs to get their money back.

"He is still contacting people and asking them for bribes - either directly or through his business partners in India."

The firm has hired nurses on behalf of the hospital for the past three years.

It also recruits staff on behalf of private facilities in Bahrain and allegedly claimed to be able to get people jobs at the Salmaniya Medical Complex.

However, senior Health Ministry sources have denied ever using the agency to hire staff.

Nurses allege they have been asked to hand over money to the company's chairman in Bahrain or his business partners in Mumbai, Kerala and Bangalore, in India.

Those who pay the BD500 bribe allegedly make it onto a shortlist and are not even guaranteed a job in the end, applicants have claimed.

Even if they are selected, they say they have no assurance that they will retain their job.

Some of the nurses who allegedly gained employment in this way have reportedly had their contracts terminated after a year, because they were never suitable for the jobs in the first place.

Indian Embassy officials have launched their own inquiry into the claims, but are refusing to discuss the status of their investigation.

Ambassador Balkrishna Shetty previously said an official report would be submitted to Bahrain's Foreign Ministry if the allegations were found to be true. begena@gdn.com.bh



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