Thursday, February 2, 2012


More on the immigration corruption trial...the saga continues:

Family details to court $4,500 deal with immigration fixer

OTTAWA — A Syrian family paid an immigration fixer $4,500 in cash to arrange work permits after their application was rejected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, an Ottawa court heard Wednesday.
The evidence was presented in the trial of a senior bureaucrat accused of using her influence to fast-track applications in exchange for money.
Diane Serre is accused of teaming up with Issam Dakik to take money from mostly Arab immigrants in exchange for speeding up their applications.
The Crown alleges Dakik would meet with the applicants and collect the money before contacting Serre, who would use her influence as a supervisor at the Catherine Street immigration office to pull the necessary strings.
Serre, 41, has pleaded not guilty to 28 charges, including multiple allegations of fraud against the government and breach of trust of a public official. She is also charged with one count of bribery. Dakik has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.
George Zidan told the court Wednesday that he came to Canada from Syria with his parents, two brothers and a sister in 2000. His father had been issued a work permit and the other members of the family were able to join him on visitor visas.
Zidan told the court an application to extend the family’s permits was rejected in November 2002.
The following spring, he met Dakik through family friends and asked for the man’s help.
Dakik took down the family’s file number and other details and soon paid them a visit at their home, which is when he said he could get Zidan and his brother, as well as their father, work permits (the brothers had previously only been able to get work or student visas).
But it would cost them $4,500 — $1,500 upfront and another $3,000 when the family had their permits in hand.
Soon after, Zidan, his brother and father were called down to the Catherine Street office and handed work permits.
Zidan told the court he didn’t ask Dakik how he was able to arrange such a thing and Dakik offered little explanation, nor a receipt for the cash payment.
Dakik later helped the family get an $1,850 refund from the immigration department for fees they paid on the initial application, of which he took a share.
“I got you the refund back and no one could get you the refund, so I want $400 from the cheque,” Zidan recalled the man saying at the time.
The following spring, Zidan said the family started dealing with a new immigration consultant, whom they hired to help them get their permits extended again and apply for permanent residence in Canada.
The consultant became concerned when she learned the brothers had received work permits, which they weren’t eligible for, and wrote the immigration department in June 2004 requesting a correction to the brothers’ status.
Weeks later, Zidan told the court, he had several telephone conversations with Dakik — which were recorded by police and played in court Wednesday.
On the tape, Dakik brings up the letter during one call, which Zidan said the new immigration consultant found “shocking” because it had been sent directly to the manager of the Ottawa office.
Earlier Wednesday, Samia Caron, a Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer who worked with Serre, said under cross examination that her boss gave her the impression in the summer of 2003 that she should overturn her decision in the Zidan case, even if Serre didn’t specifically tell her to do so in as many words.
Caron faced questions about her recollection of events. She had testified on Tuesday that in 2004 Serre had shown her gifts the manager allegedly received from clients. But after revisiting transcripts of two statements Caron made to police in 2005, it seemed as though Caron actually reported seeing the gifts in 2003.
She confessed her memory is not as fresh as it once was. “I feel my original statement to the RCMP was more fresh, so it’s probably the most accurate,” she told the court.
But if she was so concerned about the gifts and whether Serre was allowed to accept them, why she didn’t report the incident to a manager at the time or mention them to police, Defence counsel Natasha Calvinho asked.
“The reason you didn’t go report it, is it’s not something that struck you as overly concerning,” Calvinho suggested.
Caron disagreed, saying the fact Serre told her not to tell anyone about the gifts is evidence enough that accepting gifts was against the rules.
The trial continues.

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