The B.C. government alleges three linked companies offering assistance to would-be immigrants have been providing documentation for jobs that never existed.
The agencies in Abbotsford and Surrey have engaged in “payroll cycling schemes” where they created employment records, pay stubs and issued cheques for the fake jobs while taking payments from the foreign workers, a lawsuit filed by the director of civil forfeiture alleges.
The lawsuit says that properties owned by immigration consultant Vipan Datta, his wife, Ritu, consultant Kuldeep Kaur and her husband, Harnek Singh Pannu, should be forfeited to the government as they have been used in “unlawful activities.”
And the government wants to keep more than $600,000 seized when the Canada Border Services Agency searched properties in 2020 in connection with its investigation.
Datta owns Far East Consultants, based in Surrey, where his wife also works, according to the lawsuit. Until Friday afternoon, the company’s website offered information about assistance with work permits and immigration. The site went down after Postmedia called for comment on the government’s lawsuit.
Datta did not respond to phone and text messages.
The Abbotsford phone number for one of the other companies named in the statement of claim, CEC Immigration Services, was not working Friday.
The government alleges Datta and Kaur are “the operating minds” behind the two companies, as well as a third called Canadian Education and Career Services.
In December, 2018, CBSA started “an investigation into the activities of V. Datta and K. Kaur and their business operations including Far East, CECS Ltd. and CIS Inc. for alleged immigration offences,” the director’s statement of claim said.
It also alleged that since 2017, Datta, Kaur and their companies colluded with “prospective, purported or actual Canadian employers” to get foreign nationals immigration status in Canada through “submitting fraudulent Labour Market Impact Assessments” and then claiming that a foreign worker was needed to fill vacancies. They then charged “foreign nationals for work permits obtained via fraudulent LMIA applications.”
They were also involved in “payroll cycling schemes whereby the defendants and employers created employment documentation for jobs that did not exist and/or for which the foreign national was not employed, for the purpose of misrepresenting work permits, LMIAs and employment as valid in return for material gain or financial benefit,” the lawsuit alleges.
Datta and Kaur “made misrepresentations to Canadian government agencies, including Employment and Social Development Canada, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.”
When Datta’s former house was searched on Feb. 5, 2020, CBSA investigators found $306,950 and documents, including ledgers “with notes recording payments to/from foreign workers, recruiters and or employers and debts owed” and blank signed employer cheques.
Datta was arrested in a vehicle outside, where another $40,400 and more records were found.
More documents and $262,298 was found during a search of Kaur’s then residence in Abbotsford, as well as records similar to those found at Datta’s house, the lawsuit says.
Kaur was arrested “for misrepresentation, counselling misrepresentation and human smuggling.”
Neither Datta nor Kaur have filed statements of defence in the civil forfeiture case. And neither has been charged criminally, CBSA spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy confirmed on Friday.
Asked if the investigation was continuing, Purdy said, “It is not a practice of the CBSA to confirm or deny whether it is investigating a specific person or company, unless charges have been formally laid.”
During the searches, cash was found in shopping bags, Ziploc bags, bundled in envelopes inside other envelopes, wrapped with looseleaf paper or in elastic bands and marked with sticky notes.
The director alleged that the cash and the properties are proceeds of illegal activity and that “V. Datta and K. Kaur have been members of an organization comprised of more than three persons, inside or outside Canada, which has as one of its main purpose or main activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences.”