Details of immigration fraud investigation revealed in court document

Court filing offers rare glimpse at how CBSA officers carried out part of their complex investigation

A recently unsealed court document offers a rare glimpse at how Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers carried out part of their complex investigation into a pair of immigration consultants who are now facing dozens of charges.

The document was filed in 2017 to obtain warrants to search a Surrey, B.C., business — Can-Asia Immigration Consultants, the couple’s Langley home, and multiple safety deposit boxes.

None of the claims in the document, which is known as an ITO (Information to Obtain), have been tested in court. The couple, Rupinder “Ron” Batth and Navdeep Batth are scheduled to make their first court appearance Oct. 13 at Surrey Provincial Court.

The ITO was drafted by Gary Sidhu, a CBSA officer with the agency’s criminal investigations section. In its 110 pages, Sidhu describes in stunning detail the scale of a significant alleged immigration fraud network. It implicates other consultants, as well as 144 foreign nationals and 29 businesses that are named in the document.

The fraud alleged by Sidhu in the document revolves around different schemes to help foreign nationals obtain temporary work permits and permanent residency, as well as getting employers to “pad” applications to hire temporary foreign workers.

The document describes the various investigative methods Sidhu and the CBSA carried out prior to getting the search warrants and the 2017 raid on the Can-Asia office and the Batths’ Langley home, including surveillance, critical details found in another agent’s cellphone at a border crossing, a tip from a restaurant manager who lost his cook and countless other leads.

‘Garbage pulls’

Sidhu describes two trips — referred to as “garbage pulls” — that he and another officer made to the Batths’ home in April and May of 2017 to search the discarded garbage and recycling at the house. They rifled through the waste to find torn documents that — pieced back together — gave a picture of the fees collected for Can-Asia’s services, and several names of clients to investigate.

The businesses the investigator names are located around Metro Vancouver and B.C.’s Interior. They include restaurants, farms, vineyards, various construction companies and trades, even a jewelry store.

Many of the foreign nationals have South Asian names, but many others appear to be from countries all over the world.

The office formerly occupied by Can-Asia Immigration Consultants in a Surrey strip mall is now used by a different immigration company, but some of the original signs remain in place. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Resulting charges

While the investigation wasn’t limited to the Batths and their businesses, the ITO is specifically aimed at searching their property, so it largely focuses on the couple. In early September the pair was charged with 69 counts under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The charges include counselling or attempting to counsel misrepresentation or helping people misrepresent facts related to their immigration, knowingly misrepresenting or withholding facts that can induce error in administration, and communicating false information with regard to someone’s immigration.

Rupinder Batth faces 54 counts, while Navdeep Batth faces 15.

Different alleged schemes

Sidhu described in the ITO different types of immigration fraud and how they work. Some are straightforward, like falsifying documents to claim more work experience than an applicant actually has — this equals more “points” that can be used for different types of permanent residency applications.

The falsified documents could be created out of thin air — as Sidhu claimed one source describes — or made by employers issuing cheques and pay stubs for work that isn’t actually done.

The ITO details “padding” of labour market impact assessments, which are documents employers often need before hiring foreign workers and are meant to show there is a need for a foreign worker — rather than a Canadian or permanent resident — to fill a job.

The “padding” of these documents essentially creates jobs that don’t exist, which are then “sold” for the benefit of the employer or consultant. Foreign nationals think they’re buying a legitimate job but find there’s no job when they arrive, according to Sidhu.

Batth allegedly misrepresented 26 applicants’ eligibility to apply under the federal skilled worker category. All 26 applicants became permanent residents of Canada.

Cash deals for immigration fraud

The investigator claimed that Can-Asia charged cash for fraudulent labour market assessments, ranging from $17,000 to $23,000 and even as high as $60,000.

According to FINTRAC, Canada’s financial intelligence agency, and Royal Bank reports quoted in the document, cash totalling $208,200 was deposited by the couple at three RBC Langley branches between May 2016 and Jan. 2017. Navdeep Batth allegedly told the branch the money was from business proceeds.

In the ITO, Sidhu described a plan to use a dog trained to smell bulk cash to search the Batths’ home.

Source: From CBC News