Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The Ottawa Citizen reports on the trial of an immigration officer accused of corrupt practices. In an unusual move, the court declared a Crown witness to be "hostile". This is a very interesting turn of events.  See article below:

Key Crown witness declared hostile

Trial of immigration bureaucrat resumes after hiatus

By Matthew Pearson, The Ottawa CitizenMarch 12, 2012

OTTAWA — The Crown has won permission to cross-examine its own star witness — a key player in the trial of a senior federal bureaucrat accused of taking cash and gifts in exchange for fast-tracking immigration applications — after a judge agreed his evasive answers were full of discrepancies.

Issam Dakik took the stand in the trial of former Citizenship and Immigration Canada supervisor Diane Serre, which resumed Monday after a three-week hiatus.

Serre, 41, is accused of teaming up with Dakik to take thousands of dollars from mostly Arab immigrants in exchange for speeding up their applications for student and work permits or permanent resident status.

Dakik would meet with the applicants and collect the money before contacting Serre, who would use her influence as a manager at the Catherine Street office.

She has pleaded not guilty to 28 charges, including multiple allegations of fraud against the government and breach of trust of a public official. Serre is also charged with one count of bribery.

The scheme allegedly began in January 2003 and continued until December 2004, when the pair was arrested by RCMP in an operation dubbed “Project Argon.”

Nine applicants made the illegal cash payments, which the RCMP said at the time of Serre’s arrest ranged from between $4,000 and $25,000.

Dakik, who has pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme, along with credit card fraud, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison in 2006. At the time, the man admitted he paid Serre a portion of the proceeds of the scheme.

But on Monday, Dakik was not terribly co-operative with Assistant Crown attorney Mike Boyce.

He couldn’t recall many details about his clients and the arrangements he had with them and said, after hearing a wiretapped phone conversation between himself and Serre, that he couldn’t identify the woman’s voice on the call, despite testifying earlier in the day that he’d known the woman personally for more than a decade.

Dakik, 51, also told the court that while he pleaded guilty voluntarily in 2006 to several offences related to the case, he did so without actually reading the agreed statement of facts, the specific charges against him and without fully understanding the Canadian court system.

“I came in to plead guilty and serve my time,” he said.

Although he pleaded guilty to the contrary, Dakik told the court he didn’t offer Serre money for her help, but admitted he personally accepted cash payments from his clients for his efforts, whom he believed he was helping on “humanitarian” grounds.

“In my mind, I wasn’t doing nothing wrong, I didn’t hurt no one,” he testified.

Before the 9/11 terror attacks, Dakik said the immigration system was “working fine for everyone.” But soon after, members of the Muslim community, and especially Arabs, were discriminated against, their files left languishing in the queue. “Everybody felt it,” he said.

Dakik said he began helping people in 2003, even though he had no training or experience, telling clients instead that he was working with a lawyer. But he was actually turning to Serre, a friend of Dakik’s wife, who he said would look into the cases and assign some to immigration officers.

Dakik said he didn’t deal with anyone else inside the immigration office and never sent written material to CIC identifying himself as somebody assisting people with their applications.

He didn’t charge for his services at first, but then he began learning how much people had paid lawyers and consultants and decided to do the same, accepting only cash — half upfront and half when the case was resolved.

He then told the court Serre had previously told him accepting cash in exchange for her efforts could put her job at risk, but gifts up to $200 in value were acceptable.

Dakik admitted to giving to giving Serre gifts and, after some prodding by Boyce, added he gave her cash on several occasions — not as payment for her services but rather money so she could buy herself something on the occasions when he couldn’t come up with a good idea for a gift.

Boyce offered Dakik numerous chances to review his testimony from a 2008 preliminary hearing and the agreed statement of facts to which he pleaded guilty in 2006, but the man refused again and again.

Dakik also turned down an offer made by police to read over his previous testimony before being called as a witness.

“I don’t need to read anything,” he said in court, adding the events in question were years ago and reading past testimony wouldn’t help refresh any of the details.

Hearing enough, Boyce asked Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken to declare Dakik an adverse witness, opening the door for the Crown to cross-examine him.

Boyce called Dakik’s answers “evasive” and “non-responsive to the extreme,” and noted the man often went off on tangents or answered questions with questions.

The Crown listed numerous discrepancies between what Dakik said in court Monday and what he’s previously said under oath, including whether Serre knew he was taking money from clients, whether he ever spoke to her over the phone regarding immigration cases and whether the pair ever used coded language when speaking about files on the telephone.

Aitken agreed the inconsistencies, as well as Dakik’s demeanour in court and unwillingness to refresh his memory as Boyce had offered, aptly qualified him as adverse.

The trial continues Tuesday.


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