Infosys visa fraud case set for jury trial in Alabama

Claims that Infosys routinely brought Indian tech workers into the US on B-1 visas to do work that actually required an H1-B visa will be heard at trial on 20 August.

Uttara Choudhury December 02, 2011 08:33:55 IST
Infosys visa fraud case set for jury trial in Alabama

New York: Claims that Infosys routinely brought Indian tech workers into the US on B-1 visas to do work that actually required an H1-B visa will be heard at trial on 20 August, Alabama federal judge Myron Thompson ruled on Thursday.

Infosys, accused of visa and tax fraud, will defend itself against a lawsuit brought against it by whistleblower Jay Palmer. If a US jury winds up buying the argument that Infosys flouted immigration laws and then shut up a whistle-blower, it could really damage the company. US commentators are already suggesting that criminal indictments could be on the horizon next.

Infosys had tried to get its employee Palmer to settle the case, to avoid having all of its dirty laundry aired in open court. According to people close to the negotiations, things backfired after Infosys chief marketing officer Paul Gottsegen called Palmer a liar and a fortune hunter. When Palmer demanded a public apology, Infosys baulked. Evidently, Palmer wasn't interested in "getting as big of a payout as he can" from Infosys as Gottsegen had crudely suggested.

"My client, Jay Palmer is looking forward to having a public trial so that he can prove that everything he has described about Infosys violating the B1 visa program is correct. He was upset when Infosys called him a liar. He is looking forward to this trial where he can present all the evidence," Palmer's trial lawyer Kenneth J Mendelsohn told Firstpost.

Infosys visa fraud case set for jury trial in Alabama

The civil lawsuit brought ten months ago by Palmer against Infosys has already spawned a criminal investigation by US authorities into the visa practices of the Indian software giant.Reuters

Palmer's attorney said they had evidence to nail Infosys; "We will be calling witnesses and other Infosys employees who will help prove everything Palmer said. We will be producing documents showing the misuse of the B-1 visa program and we have documents from Infosys clients."

The civil lawsuit brought ten months ago by Palmer against Infosys has already spawned a criminal investigation by US authorities into the visa practices of the Indian software giant. Attempts by Infosys to portray Palmer as a lone wolf who's spreading "falsehoods" about the company, also fell flat after two other Infosys managers in the US submitted damning internal whistle-blower reports of visa fraud.

All three whistle-blowers, including Palmer have said Infosys misused short-term B1 visitors' visas to bring in low-cost engineers from India. They have submitted internal reports pointing to Indians on business visitor visas who were working full time at client sites and Infosys was billing for their work. This is illegal as a B-1 visa is only valid for entry into the US for attending meetings and training. Infosys also paid the Indian employees for full-time work in the US without withholding federal or state income taxes.

Palmer who was hired in the US by Infosys in 2008 as a project manager alleged that his managers sought his help to circumvent US visa regulations and that managers failed to act when he reported the illegal conduct.

"Palmer was actually asked by Infosys managers to write a letter which was required by the US Consulate. The letter said the person was coming to a meeting but Palmer refused to do it because he knew it was a lie. He knew this particular B-1 was not coming here for a meeting but to work at a client site," said Mendelsohn.

When Palmer refused to write the letter, company managers chastised him on a conference call for "not being a team player." He said he was ostracised, harassed no end and finally filed a lawsuit against Infosys in February this year although he is still employed at the company.

Commentators are urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Infosys. "Palmer's civil lawsuit alleging that Infosys has engaged in visa and tax fraud, and the US government's criminal investigation of the company's visa-related activity, are likely to change Infosys forever. No one should be surprised if criminal indictments are on the horizon. But the US government still needs to be all over this case on the civil side, as well. And the SEC is just the body to do it," wrote Don Tennant in IT Business Edge.

Gottsegen had slammed Palmer's testimony in September before a Senate subcommittee hearing on immigration reform, saying it was "full of inaccuracies, exaggerations and falsehoods," and that Palmer "is obviously intent on spreading his falsehoods about Infosys and our business practices as broadly as possible in order to advance his objective of getting as big of a payout as he can from the company."

Mendelsohn said, "Palmer is looking to prove to the world that he is not the liar. It is clear how Infosys was violating our laws."

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