Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I an quoted in today's National Post story:

Serbian barred from Canada over alleged Soviet-era espionage | News | National Post

Serbian barred from Canada over alleged Soviet-era espionage

Sarah Boesveld Apr 24, 2012 – 11:16 PM ET | Last Updated: Apr 24, 2012 11:18 PM ET

A Serbian man has been barred from entering Canada on suspicion that he belongs to a secret police service in the former Yugoslavia that spied on Western governments and institutions during the Communist era.

In a case that casts an unusually wide net, setting a precedent to keep anyone with even remote links to suspicious groups from entering the country, the Federal Court of Canada denied permanent residency to Zoran Vukic who worked as a communications attaché for the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) in Ottawa between 1998 and 2002.

Mr. Vukic, whose job it was to receive and transmit secret communications between the embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgrade, has since returned to Serbia. But his wife Zorica, who was also deemed inadmissible to Canada, remains in Ottawa on a temporary resident work permit and challenged the government on its decision late last month.

She and her husband were both refused permanent residency because a visa officer decided there were “reasonable grounds” to believe Mr. Vukic was inadmissible because he “is or was” a member of an “organization engaged in espionage,” Madam Justice Anne Mactavish ruled on March 29.

The organization in question, Sluzba za istrazavanje dokumentacije (SID), is accused of spying on Western governments and establishments during the Communist era and participating in the deaths of enemies of the state and nationals within Yugoslavia and beyond.

Mr. Vukic said his job with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was to transmit encrypted messages between their government office and the Embassy in Ottawa.

That correspondence was often sent by diplomatic bag or courier; that was co-ordinated by a different embassy official, court documents said.

‘It’s also noteworthy that the interpretation of who is a member is fairly wide as well’
He was first interviewed at the Canadian embassy in Belgrade in August 2005 about his family’s application for permanent residence in Canada. In December of that year, the family was told the visa section in Vienna had new information about them that needed further probing. Mr. Vukic was interviewed again in March 2006.

Mrs. Vukic was told by letter in May 2007 that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” Mr. Vukic was inadmissible to Canada under section 34 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which states foreign nationals cannot be accepted into Canada on security grounds for engaging in an act of espionage or an act of subversion against a government, or for being a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages in such acts.

The Vukics provided the visa officer with more information, including documents relating to Mr. Vukic’s employment. The officer reviewed them and still decided there were reasonable grounds to deny them residency, mostly because Mr. Vukic couldn’t prove it was impossible to work for both the SID and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the same time.

In fact, in an interview with the visa office in February 2011, he “appears to acknowledge the possibility that one could work for both the SID and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the same time,” the court documents said.

Ms. Vukic alleged she and her husband had been treated unfairly by the visa officer, a claim Judge Mactavish said she was “not persuaded” by.

Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas, who is not involved in the case, said inadmissibility based on membership in an organization accused of espionage is fairly rare.

“The court interpreted the scope of this particular section of the legislation pretty widely and accorded the visa officer great deference in his conclusions that the person was in fact a member of this organization,” he said.

“It’s also noteworthy that the interpretation of who is a member is fairly wide as well.”

The case is also not as obvious as that of ex-KGB officer Mikhail Lennikov, who worked mostly as a Japanese translator with the Russian national security agency for six years until he quit in 1988. He has sought sanctuary at a Vancouver church for more than three years.

National Post

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