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'I feel so cheated and robbed' - students' anger as agency shuts

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Victor Gomes del Melo

Victor Gomes del Melo

Victor Gomes del Melo

Hundreds of international students have been left devastated after the agency they paid upwards of €3,000 to shut down without any notice.

An estimated 400 Brazilians are out of pocket after paying between €1,500 and €3,000 to the 4U Study agency, which had an office based in Arran Quay, Dublin.

They would get a student visa and the chance to study at an English language school in the capital for 25 weeks. First Visa recipients would also receive health insurance and two weeks' accommodation.

However, on December 24 the agency's owner, Djalma Remondini Filho (32), unexpectedly disappeared.

Two days later, the company's website and social media accounts were taken down.

The news also came as a shock to 4U Study's staff who have been left unemployed, including two of its Dublin employees.

While the majority of the students who have been affected are still in Brazil, some are stranded in Ireland with no means to return home.

Victor Gomes de Melo (23) lost €1,570 when renewing his course.

"It's an absolute nightmare - I feel so cheated and robbed," he said.

"I've been a student in Dublin for more than a year and since my college hasn't received my money from 4U Study, I lost my place and can't afford to go back.

"On December 27, every student who had been paying this agency received a message from its employees informing us that the owner had taken all of our money and disappeared.

"I thought it was just some sick joke, but I quickly found out this was no laughing matter."

Michelle Tyszczenki and her husband Edwin paid 4U Study €400 each for the first instalment of their English course at the start of December.

The couple also paid €112 for an insurance plan for their parents who were travelling to Ireland.

However, just one day after Christmas, Ms Tyszczenki noticed a Facebook post about the company's sudden closure.

"When I saw it, I immediately contacted the company's insurance consultant, who told me that he didn't know what was going on," she said.

"I am so angry and upset that we can't get our money back, but I know that many who are affected have contacted the gardai and police in Brazil.

"Hopefully, they will take this matter seriously because there are hundreds of us who have lost our hard-earned money."

Devastated

A Dublin employee of 4U Study, Filipe Farmento, told the Herald the company's closure came as a "massive shock" to him.

However, he expressed concern for the owner's well-being.

"I feel devastated because I have lost my job and don't have a salary for this month," he said.

"I created a WhatsApp group for all of the students affected and am trying to help them deal with the situation in the best way possible.

"Our flagship country was Ireland, but we soon spread out to other countries as well.

"I also consider the owner, Djalma Remondini Filho, as a very good person and friend.

"However, I can't explain why he did this. No one can contact him because he's changed his number and won't respond to our messages.

"I'm also worried about his well-being."

Several Dublin language schools expressed their dismay.

"We are doing our best to help the students affected," said ISI Dublin director Brian Burns.

"We are assisting these students with rebooking their programmes directly with the school at a discounted rate and advising them to seek legal advice in Brazil."

David O'Grady, boss of Marketing English in Ireland, described the situation as "deeply unsatisfactory".

Managing director of Future Learning Language School, David Ganly, said that it has enrolled a number of students at a discounted price.