March 11, 2014
Terror suspect's pardoned past: Alleged VIA plotter Raed Jaser arrested for fraud binge
By Stewart Bell
In 2008, through a non-profit group called Pardons Canada, he applied to the National Parole Board for a pardon. It cost him $50
See the full documents1
TORONTO - Four years after arriving in Canada, Raed Jaser was arrested by Toronto police for what could only be described as a fraud binge. In the space of a few months in 1996, he allegedly defrauded nine businesses.
The list of goods that police said he obtained through frauds was eclectic: leather; an espresso machine and grinder; Brazilian coffee; tires; a gas-fired oven; tables; a high-efficiency furnace; and sound-system equipment.
According to the charges, he wrote $15,000 worth of forged cheques, but the total value of his alleged frauds was many times higher.
The following year, Jaser was convicted of four fraud offences in connection to the charges, and twice for failure to comply with a recognizance. Then, in 2001, he was sentenced for uttering threats, bringing his tally of convictions to seven.
As a failed refugee claimant, his criminal record was problematic. It could get him deported. But in 2008, through a non-profit group called Pardons Canada, he applied to the National Parole Board for a pardon. It cost him $50.
"The National Parole Board is pleased to inform you that a pardon has been awarded," read the letter that came a few months later, explaining that his criminal history could no longer "reflect adversely" on his character.
After Mr. Jaser was once again arrested last April, this time over his alleged role in an Al-Qaeda-linked plot to derail a Toronto-bound passenger train, the National Post revealed that he had somehow been granted a pardon.
But the details of his crimes and how he managed to have his record erased - which then allowed him to become a landed immigrant as if he had a clean rap sheet - are only now emerging in court documents.Shown the documents, Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas said the law had changed since Mr. Jaser's file was processed and that obtaining what is now called a record suspension is more difficult today, "especially in cases where there are multiple convictions."
But he called the case "quite amazing" because Mr. Jaser was a failed refugee claimant, and there is typically little leniency shown to someone in those circumstances. He said the case highlighted Canada's inability to deal with those who arrive in the country and commit serious crimes.
Following an internal review into the case by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the government said last June it would close the "loophole" that had allowed Mr. Jaser's pardon - but that has not yet happened.
The following year, he allegedly defrauded a vitamin supplement company, Body Wise International Canada Inc., court documents show. York Regional Police charged him with fraud under $5,000 but the case was stayed.
By the fall of 1996, however, he was passing bad cheques worth thousands of dollars and defrauding companies such as Timothy's World Coffee, The Leather Warehouse and the Brazilian Canadian Coffee Company, according to police.
While some of the charges were later withdrawn, he received an 18-month conditional sentence for the fraud offences. Filling out his record are convictions for failing to comply with a recognizance and threatening "death/bodily harm."
In 2004, federal immigration authorities decided Mr. Jaser had overstayed his welcome. He was arrested for deportation, but a problem soon arose: where would they send him? Although he was born in the Emirates, the country did not recognize him as a citizen. Neither would the Jordanians or Germans allow his return.
Stymied, immigration officers deemed him "stateless" and let him go. But deportation was always going to be a possibility because he had no Canadian immigration status, and never would because of his record. In 2008, however, he asked to be pardoned for his crimes.
On the application forms, he wrote that he was represented by Pardons Canada, a Toronto non-profit that "assists individuals in removing a past criminal offence from public record," according to its website, pardons.org.
"We promote positive behavior by giving people hope," it explained. The website said it was "a good idea" for those facing deportation to apply for a pardon. "By doing this you can show Immigration Canada that you are no longer involved in any criminal activities, and that you qualify to have your criminal record removed."
It took the parole board less than nine months to approve Mr. Jaser's pardon. The board also helpfully wrote to the RCMP, telling them not to disclose the existence of his convictions. Letters with similar instructions were sent to the Ontario Court, Provincial Court and Correctional Service of Canada.
Without a record, Mr. Jaser was cleared for immigration. He became a permanent resident in 2012, but in April of that year, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service began taking an interest in him.
By September 2012, CSIS had tipped off the RCMP, which launched Project Smooth to investigate allegations Mr. Jaser and a Tunisian named Chiheb Esseghaier were planning a terrorist attack in Canada.
Police spent seven months tracking the pair as they allegedly scouted locations to derail a passenger train. They were arrested on April 22, 2013. The details of why Mr. Jaser allegedly wanted to commit acts of terrorism, and exactly what he is alleged to have planned, cannot be reported due to a publication ban.
But in an interview, Mr. Esseghaier accused Canada of "colonizing" Afghanistan. The RCMP says the plot was directed by Al-Qaeda elements based in Iran. Mr. Jaser has denied the charges. The case is expected to go to trial early next year.
Six weeks after the two were arrested, the parole board wrote to Mr. Jaser at the Toronto jail to tell him his pardon might be revoked over the terror allegations, which it said reflected "a fundamental disregard for Canadian law and the safety of the public."
Six weeks after the two were arrested, the parole board wrote to Mr. Jaser at the Toronto jail to tell him his pardon might be revoked over the terror allegations, which it said reflected ‘a fundamental disregard for Canadian law and the safety of the public'
John Norris, Mr. Jaser's lawyer, responded that it was unfair to revoke his pardon on the basis of unproven allegations. But the parole board was unconvinced. It sent its decision to Mr. Jaser last July 29. The letter said the RCMP had provided "reliable and persuasive" information about his role in a terrorist plot. "Consequently, the board hereby revokes your pardon."
Mr. Jaser has appealed the decision to the Federal Court. "We are proceeding with the judicial review of the pardon revocation. No date has been set yet. Otherwise, I cannot comment at this time," Mr. Norris said.
National Post with files from Adrian Humphreys