Saturday, June 23, 2012


Here is the Ottawa Citizen report on the conviction of  a corrupt immigration official. Kudos to the newspaper for thoroughly and diligently following this important and unusual case.

Aside from the particulars of this case, this should serve as a reminder to applicants who seek an advantage  in their cases by using fraudulent, corrupt or improper means, that Canada is a country where the rule of law prevails and immigration processing is not based on "who you know" to "push a file", despite the outlandish claims made regularly by unscrupulous individuals looking to give false hopes to applicants. Do the right thing: seek reputable and knowledgeable representation and play by the rules. There is a difference between providing representation and forcefully arguing a case on one hand, and seeking to influence officials improperly on the other. It remains to be seen if CBSA would revisit the applications that were the focus of this investigation. 

‘Corrupt’ immigration manager convicted of fraud

Diane Serré leaves the Elgin Street courthouse on Friday after she was convicted of fraud and breach of trust. The former immigration manager accepted cash and gifts in exchange for immigrants receiving preferential treatment.

Photograph by: Mike Carroccetto, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Evidence that a former immigration manager accepted cash and gifts in exchange for preferential treatment was “absolutely overwhelming,” a judge concluded Friday, after finding the woman guilty of more than two dozen fraud and breach of trust charges.
“I am persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that Diane Serré acted with the intention to use her public office for a purpose other than the public good; namely, for a purpose that was dishonest, partial and corrupt,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken wrote in an 86-page written decision that found Serré accepted money from friend Issam Dakik in exchange for her help processing 10 immigration files.
“She used her position to make money by providing information, documentation, advice and/or preferential treatment to Mr. Dakik’s immigration clients in a way that she hoped would never be discovered by anyone else at (Citizenship and Immigration Canada),” wrote Aitken.
Serré, 41, teamed up with Dakik and his wife, who was also Serré’s esthetician, to form what the judge described as a “joint enterprise” to make money helping immigrants with their immigration files between 2003 and 2004. Aitken said Dakik “let it be known in the Lebanese community” that he could make things happen for a price because he had someone on the inside at immigration. That person was Serré, Aitken found.
Dakik met with the clients before bringing their files to the attention of Serré, who used her influence as acting operations supervisor at Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Catherine Street office to speed up the process.
Some of the people Serré helped were in Canada illegally while others were given work permits they wouldn’t otherwise be eligible to receive. One man had outstanding criminal charges in Halifax.
Serré also fast-tracked permanent resident applications, accomplishing in weeks what immigration employees testified might otherwise typically take months or years to be completed.
Exactly how much Serré received for her help isn’t clear, although Aitken’s decision outlined at least $25,900 in payments received by Dakik.
Serré took precautions to keep her activity secret, Aitken noted, although they weren’t enough.
As part of their investigation, police wiretapped hundreds of phone calls between Serré and Dakik, videotaped interactions between Dakik and an undercover agent, conducted surveillance, planted a video probe in Serré’s office and raided both her and Dakik’s home searching for evidence. Six marked $50 bills that had been paid to Dakik were seized from a safe at Serré’s home.
“I’ve rarely seen a case that has as much evidence as this one,” said Aitken, who noted in her written decision Serré’s lawyer had “virtually nothing” to say regarding the evidence. “I am left without any doubt at all.”
At trial, Serré’s lawyer challenged little of the evidence against her, instead arguing she wasn’t paid much and believed she was helping hard-luck immigrants after being manipulated by a friend.
Aitken rejected those arguments, instead finding that Serré was part of a conspiracy with Dakik.
Dakik already pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme, along with credit card fraud, and was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison in 2006.
Dakik claimed at trial Serré received only small gifts like a barbecue and free esthetic treatments from his wife along with cash payments of $200 or less. Aitken didn’t believe him.
“It is inconceivable that Ms. Serré would have jeopardized her job and her liberty by engaging in the illegal activities in which she was involved unless it was worth her while financially to do so,” wrote Aitken.
“She had no personal connection with the immigrants she was assisting. The only difference between them and the other immigration clients being processed at the Ottawa C.I.C. office was that Mr. Dakik was being paid handsomely to move their files forward,” she wrote.
Serré was found guilty of 15 counts of fraud and 12 counts of breach of trust. She was acquitted of only a single count — bribery — after the Crown conceded that had not made out their case on that charge.
Aitken said Serré’s conduct violated the standard of responsibility of her office.
“One of those responsibilities was to ensure that everyone within her office working on an immigration file did so in compliance with legislation, regulations and department standards and policies,” wrote Aitken. “She did not apply that standard to herself.”
Serré remains free on bail pending a sentencing hearing, which will likely be set for later this year.

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