Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Trail of ‘immigration fixer’ revealed in Ottawa courtroom


OTTAWA — When Mahmoud Samih Zbib’s wife’s permanent resident application got stalled, he went looking for a fixer.
He seemed to have found one in Issam Dakik, an Ottawa court heard Tuesday.
Dakik had connections, Zbib testified. Dakik told him he could act as an intervener between lawyers and Citizenship and Immigration Canada to get the permanent resident application process — which at that point had taken years for Zbib’s wife — completed in as little as a month.
Prosecutors now allege Dakik’s connection was Citizenship and Immigration Canada operations manager Diane Serre, who they allege took money from Dakik. In exchange, Serre would give preferential treatment to the files Dakik brought her, using her bureaucratic influence to fast-track the process.
Serre, 41, is on trial on 28 charges, including fraud upon the government, bribery and breach of trust by a public official. She has pleaded not guilty. Dakik has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.
Testifying on the second day of Serre’s trial, Zbib described how he and his wife first met Dakik at a Tim Hortons on Bank Street at Heron Road on Nov. 20, 2004. Dakik told Zbib he’d be driving a Toyota 4 Runner.
Dakik listened to Zbib and his wife explain their situation. Zbib testified he told them he could help, and then asked for $300. Dakik told them the money was going to the lawyer’s office and to cover administrative fees.
Suspicious, Zbib said he asked questions.
“He just said ‘Listen, I solve problems. You just give me the name of your wife, her file, I’ll work on it. Everything is legal’,” said Zbib, 53.
Zbib paid him the money.
Zbib said at their next meeting inside a Lebanese pastry shop two days later, Dakik had official looking Citizenship and Immigration Canada printouts with personal information no one else would know about his wife.
Dakik told them the file was more complicated than he expected because Zbib’s wife was in Canada on an expired visitor’s visa. He’d need $3,000 to begin the process, said Zbib.
Another $3,000 would be paid after his wife, Sanaa Salman Chahine, received her permanent resident status, Zbib testified. The money went to “lawyers,” Dakik told him.
Zbib met Dakik the next day and handed over an envelope packed with $100 bills.
A grainy video, recorded by undercover RCMP officers, was played in court. In it, Zbib can be seen handing over a thick envelope. Zbib said Dakik promised his wife would get a call from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The call came the next day. The woman never identifies herself, but Serre’s phones were tapped by police.
In the phone call secretly recorded by police, the woman advises Chahine they are working on her file and should have it resolved within four to six weeks. She also tells Chahine she knows Chahine has no status in Canada.
“We could arrest you, we won’t because you have representations from a lawyer,” said the woman.
Zbib testified he had no lawyer, and was only dealing with Dakik.
Zbib couldn’t believe his wife had received a phone call from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It had never happened before during his entire time living in Canada.
“They never call you,” Zbib exclaimed in court. “When someone from Immigration calls you, this is something big.”
Zbib never paid Dakik any more money — Dakik was arrested before he could, Zbib said, who learned about the arrest through the newspaper.
Zbib testified it took his wife — who arrived in Canada from Lebanon in 2000 — another five years before she would become a permanent resident.
The trial continues Wednesday.

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