Medical student recruitment company sues College of Surgeons

Dispute revolves around €5,000 commission in relation to fees for Saudi Arabian students

 Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland: being sued by  the Nahj Company for Services over elements of fees and commission. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland: being sued by the Nahj Company for Services over elements of fees and commission. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A company which recruited students from Saudi Arabia for the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is suing the college in the High Court over the level of fees paid by the students.

The Nahj Company for Services is in dispute with the college over whether the €16,000 fee for participation in the medical commencement programme was inclusive or exclusive of a €5,000 commission said to be payable to the recruiting company.

The college denies the company’s claims.

Nahj claims Saudi Arabian officials were advised in error the fee for each student was €21,000 instead of €16,000.

This alleged mistake gave rise to a series of allegations against the college including that, between 2010 and 2014, the college continued to charge that €5,000 fee but sought to disguise this by reducing the total fee from €21,000 to €18,000.

Nahj claims, in doing so, the college failed to disclose the alleged previous error – that the €5,000 commission to Nahj was added twice to the actual fee of €11,000 for each student.

Payment of sum

Nahj claims the college continued to include a fee of €5,000 which was properly and lawfully due to Nahj.

It claims the college wrongfully retained the fee and thereafter caused all or part of the €5,000 to be wrongfully paid to companies called Castel International Ltd and/or an entity known as ICHET.

Nahj claims the college owed a duty to act in Nahj’s best interests, or fiduciary duty, as a partner in their agreement and the college’s conduct amounts to a repudiatory breach of that agreement and of fiduciary duty.

The college, in denying the claims, says it received a directive from the ministry of higher education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2010 which changed how students from that country were to be recruited.

It meant students would be recruited through the cultural section of the Saudi Arabian embassy in London. The college claims it therefore had to cease recruiting in Saudi and the fees charged by the Saudi ministry for students in future were to be reduced in an equal amount to that which had been paid to Nahj.

Pre-trial ‘interrogatories’

This rendered the agreement between the college and Nahj impossible to perform, the college claims.

The case began in 2012 and a defence was delivered in 2016. As part of pre-trial procedures, the college sought that Nahj answer written questions known as “interrogatories”.

A dispute followed with Nahj claiming, among other things, the permission of the court was required before delivery of interrogatories and the college was using them to avoid having to establish its defence by calling witnesses.

The college denied this and Mr Justice Garrett Simons was asked to resolve the dispute over interrogatories.

In his judgment, he described Nahj’s objections to answering the interrogatories as procedural in nature and directed a nominee of Nahj answer the questions in the interrogatories by December 10th.

It remained open to Nahj to object on other grounds as the court had not been addressed on the merits of the interrogatories, he said.

Directing that all further pre-trial applications be brought before him, he said it was “a cause of concern that proceedings first instituted in 2012 have not yet been brought on for trial”.