University CEO in Barbados Remanded to Prison; Ex Education Minister Mum on Controversy

University CEO Rao Venkat Gopi (left) is on several fraud charges but former Education Minister Ronald Jones (right) says he has nothing to say about the fraud accused or his school which was set up under his watch. (Gopi photo credit: Barbados Today)

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday October 10, 2018
– The chief executive officer of the Washington University of Barbados has been remanded to prison on fraud charges related to unpaid bills at the university campus, but local media reports indicate the police probe may go further.

At the same time, former Education Minister Ronald Jones under whose watch the university was given a charter and Rao Venkat Gopi set up the unaccredited medical school’s operations, has sought to distance himself from the controversy.

Gopi appeared in court on Monday charged with four counts of evading liability, including passing a total of BDS$240,000 (US$120,000) in bad cheques to the Casa Grande Hotel, where the school was based, and Furniture Limited, trading as Builders Value Mart. The companies are owned by businesswoman Ram Mirchandani.

According to local media house Barbados Today, the investigation into Gopi, who is allegedly wanted in his homeland, India, for fraud, local detectives are likely to extend their investigations beyond him.

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 the university head honcho.

“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,” he told Barbados Today. “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.”

Meantime, Jones who was Minister of Education when the Washington University of Barbados was granted approval to open in 2016, told Barbados Today he wanted to be left out of anything to do with the saga which has unfolded less than five months after the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration, under which he served, was voted out of office in the May 24 general elections.

“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,” said Jones who earlier this year was appointed vice-chancellor of another offshore medical school, the Bridgetown International University which was set up in 2017, also during his tenure as Minister of Education.

Meantime, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has revealed that her government has intervened to feed and house the mostly Indian students left behind following Gopi’s arrest, and arrange for them to continue their medical education elsewhere in Barbados if they so desired.

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