Friday, February 3, 2012


This is an unusual and fascinating case as reported by teh Ottawa Citizen:

Mountie watched immigration fixer and bureaucrat whisper together inside store
By Matthew Pearson, The Ottawa Citizen
February 2, 2012

OTTAWA — An undercover RCMP officer spotted a senior bureaucrat whispering to an immigration fixer inside a home supply store weeks before the pair’s cash-for-status scheme was broken up by police, an Ottawa court heard Thursday.

Andre-Luc Bisson testified that he participated in four surveillance operations during the summer and fall of 2004 as part of “Project Argon,” before the arrests of Diane Serre and Issam Dakik in December that year.

Serre and Dakik are accused of teaming up to take money from mostly Arab immigrants in exchange for speeding up their immigration applications.

The Crown alleges Dakik would meet applicants and collect the cash before contacting Serre, who would use her influence as a supervisor at the Catherine Street Citizenship and Immigration Canada 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.

Testifying via video link from Brussels — where’s he on education leave, Bisson told the court he and two other officers were told by colleagues assigned to monitor Serre and Dakik’s telephone lines that the pair planned to meet at a Bank Street store on the afternoon of Oct. 17, 2004.

Bisson entered the store and immediately found Dakik, who he had seen in pictures and during at least one previous stakeout. Serre arrived about 10 minutes later, passed by Dakik without acknowledging him and walked down an aisle featuring tools, Bisson told the court.

Dakik followed, Bisson said, adding he also entered the aisle and tried to listen in on their conversation, but couldn’t make out much because the pair were whispering.

Bisson returned to the aisle two more times, once with a female officer who he pretended to be shopping with.

When Dakik and Serre were later brought into RCMP custody, Bisson collected their fingerprints.

The court also heard from Elda Paliga, an Ottawa-based immigration consultant hired by a family who had previously paid Dakik $4,500 cash to obtain work permits.

Paliga, who’s run her own consulting firm for nearly 15 years and previously worked for the immigration department, told the court she became suspicious when she realized two of the men asking for her assistance to renew their work permits weren’t eligible for such permits in the first place.

Paliga said she became even more concerned when — after hand-delivering a letter to the immigration department’s Ottawa office requesting that a correction be made to the mens’ status — the family received a call from an “agitated” Dakik.

Dakik appeared to know about the confidential letter, even though it was addressed to a senior manager. He told the family it was “causing problems” for him and that he hadn’t done anything wrong, Paliga testified.

The trial continues.

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