Thursday, December 1, 2011


I was quoted extensively in the national Post story below:

Diplomat accused of fraud in El Salvador loses bid to stay in Canada News National Post

Diplomat accused of fraud in El Salvador loses bid to stay in Canada

Nov 29, 2011 – 11:21 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 1, 2011 12:26 PM ET

A senior diplomat from El Salvador accused of squandering his government’s money — most of which was supposed to pay rent on its consulate in Vancouver — has had his refugee status in Canada withheld, with the Federal Court of Canada declaring fear of returning home to face trial for serious, non-political crime is not political persecution.
Joaquin Roberto Meza Delgado spent his professional life advocating for his Central American homeland as a minister of public works, head of a political party, former ambassador to the United Nations and, until 2006, the consul general in Vancouver.
He now wants to steer clear of it, fighting to remain in Canada with his wife and daughter after allegations he misappropriated US$60,000.
His efforts received a blow last week when a Federal Court decision reversed the decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board, finding errors of fact and law and blasting the board for losing key evidence on which its adjudicator based her decision.
Mr. Meza Delgado’s diplomatic posting in Canada started brightly with him opening the Vancouver consulate in 2001.
In 2004, the diplomatic post’s financial records were audited by the Court of Accounts, El Salvador’s comptroller’s office, and the following year revealed deficiencies.
In 2006, three Salvadoran newspapers reported accusations against Mr. Meza Delgado over the financial problems. He was accused of defrauding the government of US$49,000 by misrepresenting rents paid by the consulate; failing to remit about US$12,000, some of which was covered up with altered receipts; and overcharging Salvadoran citizens for consular service.
Mr. Meza Delgado said the accusations were politically motivated because they were made public during an election. He was not charged over the financial irregularities, nor was there a request for his extradition, according to court documents.
He said he would not receive a fair trial in El Salvador and his life would be in danger.
After the diplomat claimed refugee protection in Canada in 2006, the Canadian government argued before the IRB he was ineligible as someone believed to have engaged in serious, non-political crime.
The IRB did not agree he was excluded, questioning the credibility of the allegations, but dismissed his refugee claim nonetheless, finding the family did not have well-founded fear of persecution.
Mr. Meza Delgado appealed the decision to the Federal Court and, in 2009, Justice John O’Keefe overturned it, sending it back for a fresh IRB hearing.
The new IRB panel accepted Mr. Meza Delgado as a refugee. Ottawa, reiterating concern over criminal allegations, appealed this decision.
Last week, Justice Michel Shore, overturned the second IRB decision, sending it back for a third hearing by the IRB. He decried that much of the evidence relied on by the IRB had gone missing, making the case a “Kafkaesque situation.”
The former diplomat is disappointed with the latest twist
“It is very frustrating for my client,” said Mr. Meza Delgado’s Vancouver lawyer, Craig Costantino, in an interview. “They had two hearings where they accepted what he said about he nature of the allegations, that they were political motivated and not properly founded — so it is really frustrating for him, five years later, to go back a third time.”
The case suggests a problem in the refugee system, said Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer and Past Chairman of the Ontario Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section.
“This case highlights the need for reform of our refugee determination system so persons accused of serious non-political crimes do not use the refugee system as a means to escape due process of law, or to thwart extradition,” he said.
“Refugee status should not be viewed as insulation from justice, nor as carte blanche to use Canada as a sanctuary.”
The IRB declined to comment on the specifics of the case, as it does in all refugee cases, said Melissa Anderson, an IRB spokeswoman.
Messages left with the embassy of El Salvador in Ottawa and its consulates in Vancouver and Toronto were not returned Tuesday.
National Post

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