Liberal Appointee Faces Fraud Rap
Jim Bronskill, cnews, Mar. 18
OTTAWA (CP) — A federal Liberal appointee is among 11 people facing a raft of criminal charges for allegedly participating in a fraud ring that fixed immigration appeal hearings in exchange for cash.
The RCMP accused Yves Bourbonnais, formerly of the Immigration and Refugee Board, and 10 others Thursday of forming a “very well structured criminal organization.” “The offences committed in the matter strike at the heart of the administration of justice,” said Staff Sgt. Sergio Pasin, lead investigator during a three-year probe of the activities.
The Mounties laid a whopping 278 criminal charges — ranging from fraud to passport forgery — against Bourbonnais and his alleged accomplices, all of whom are Quebecers not employed by the board.
Bourbonnais, a 62-year-old judicial officer with the board in Montreal and Ottawa, was suspended from his duties in 2001, and his term expired last October. He denies any wrongdoing.
The Ottawa RCMP initiated the probe in the fall of 2000 in response to a complaint from an immigration lawyer.
The Mounties said the investigation revealed that between 50 and 60 people facing hearings were offered positive judgments from the board in exchange for cash bribes of $8,000 to $15,000 per person.
The people allegedly approached for bribes were from the Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Italian communities in Montreal and Ottawa, said RCMP Sgt. Jocelyn Mimeault, a force spokesman. “Obviously what we’re talking about is corruption.”
He declined to say whether any rigged hearings actually took place.
Mimeault did not rule out further charges, saying the investigation is continuing.
On Oct. 25, 2001, the RCMP performed searches at various locations, including the board’s Montreal offices, private businesses and homes.
A 200-page affidavit used to obtain a search warrant described an extensive police probe that involved wiretaps, physical surveillance and numerous complaints from newcomers to Canada about alleged pressure for bribes.
The Immigration and Refugee Board would not comment Thursday on the specific charges, noting the case is now before the courts.
“So we’ll let the justice system run its course,” said Dominique Forget, a board spokeswoman.
The allegations, while serious, involve “one individual and should not overshadow the excellent work of the IRB,” she added.
This week, Immigration Minister Judy Sgro announced changes to the appointment process for the board, aiming to eliminate political patronage, strengthen the merit criteria and increase parliamentary review of nominees.
The changes are to take effect within 90 days.