The RCMP has arrested a Quebec immigration consultant accused of providing Canadian citizenship and immigration documents to hundreds of residents of Middle East countries who then collected tax benefits from Ottawa.
Ahmad El-Akhal, 62, was arrested in Montreal on Thursday following a 2½-year investigation by the RCMP’s Immigration and Passport and Commercial Crimes sections. His wife was also arrested, as well as a suspected accomplice in Mississauga.
The arrests have shed light on an audacious scheme that led to more than 200 Middle East citizens–none of whom lived in Canada — fraudulently obtaining Canadian citizenship, immigration and travel documents as well as a half-million dollars worth of federal tax benefits.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said on Thursday it was reviewing the matter and may revoke the citizenship and immigration status of those involved. It also said it would ensure that benefits were no longer paid to those not entitled to them.
The alleged crimes date back as far as 1999 but the investigation did not begin until 2008, when CIC officials noticed that 320 permanent residence applicants had given the same addresses as their residence in Canada. Almost all were eventually linked to Mr. El-Akhal.
“Basically, this individual passed himself off as an immigration consultant and assisted these people in obtaining permanent resident status and submitted the applications for them,” said Sergeant Marc LaPorte, the RCMP spokesman for Ontario.
Once they were issued their immigration and citizenship papers, Mr. El-Akhal would then apply for Income Tax benefits for them, Sgt. LaPorte said. “This guy would fill out the tax returns and documents to get benefits back in the names of these people,” he said. “They were getting tax refunds, goods and services tax rebates, child credit tax benefits, so the whole gamut.”
Mr. El-Akhal, who lives in L’ile-Bizard, Que., has been charged with 58 counts, including forgery, fraud and conspiracy. Police said he worked out of his home and was not a registered professional immigration consultant.
Also arrested was his wife, Tahani Mohamad Hassan El-Akhal, 53. She was charged with possession of proceeds obtained by crime in the amount of $155,000. Mississauga resident Hussam Hassan Ali Saif, 44, faces three charges under the Citizenship Act.
“He was the leasor of some of the residences. And also he forged lease agreements and created mail addresses for these people. He actually collected the mail and gathered the information and sent it back to Montreal,” Sgt. LaPorte said.
The three accused were scheduled to appear in a Brampton court on Friday for a bail hearing.
Despite the three arrests, the government still faces a significant challenge: how to reclaim and nullify the scores of Canadian documents it wrongly issued and that are now scattered throughout the Middle East.
“It is important to note that while over 300 files were implicated, we can confirm only five people had obtained Canadian citizenship,” said Melanie Carkner, a CIC spokeswoman.
“Other cases are being reviewed in terms of their continued status of permanent residence, which is the last step before citizenship. In the case of the five, all appropriate action will be taken to ensure that people do not obtain benefits they aren’t entitled to.
“In cases where CIC determines that residence requirements have not been met, Canadian citizenship will be refused or may be revoked and appropriate enforcement measures may be initiated that could lead to loss of permanent resident status and eventual removal from Canada.”
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