Immigration Judge Took Bribes, Court Told (The Globe and Mail)

Feb. 21, 2006: Immigration Judge Took Bribes, Court Told (The Globe and Mail)

Immigration judge took bribes, court told
Newcomers sponsoring relatives asked to pay $15,000, Crown alleges

MONTREAL — An immigration judge headed two distinct influence-peddling rings that sought thousands of dollars in bribes from newcomers who wanted favourable decisions from him to sponsor relatives to Canada, a Montreal court heard yesterday.

Details of the case against former Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Yves Bourbonnais were revealed during the pre-sentencing of a co-defendant.

Mr. Bourbonnais is to go on trial in September on 98 criminal counts, including fraud and breach of trust. He was a Liberal-era appointee in 1996, his mandate wasn't renewed after it ended in 2003.

The immigration cases described yesterday involved 12 files where a permanent resident wanted to sponsor a reunification with a spouse or child.

But in at least one other immigration file, Mr. Bourbonnais ordered a five-year stay of proceeding, after a man who faced expulsion agreed to pay $2,000 for each year that his deportation was delayed, court filings and previous hearings show.

The man's lawyer reported the situation to the RCMP, which began an investigation buttressed by wiretaps, secret surveillance and bank records.

According to the Crown, Mr. Bourbonnais is alleged to have passed computer printouts to two accomplices in Montreal listing the names and addresses of people who were to appear before the IRB's appeals division.

The two — Woon Lam (Bill) Wong, a prominent businessman who was vice-president of Montreal's Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, and Franco Macaluso, a tailor — were the links to two distinct rings that would separately use Mr. Bourbonnais's lists to approach people for bribes, the court heard.

“There was a chain of command,” Crown attorney Lucio Garcia told the court.

The court heard that Mr. Wong had accomplices who would approach applicants of Chinese or South Asian origin, while Mr. Macaluso passed the information to another co-defendant, Nirmal Singh, who approached people in the East Indian community.

Mr. Wong, Mr. Macaluso and Mr. Singh have all pleaded guilty.

Amounts of $10,000 to $15,000 were asked for each immigration application heard, the court was told.

Mr. Wong would hand money to Mr. Bourbonnais at meetings in coffee shops, Mr. Garcia said.

Mr. Wong, who has received a three-year sentence, gave the names of immigration applicants in envelopes to Liu Wai Keung, the head waiter at Caf?Nanking, a restaurant Mr. Wong owned in Chinatown.

The court heard that Mr. Liu then passed the information to another accomplice, Zhang Yong An, who would contact the applicants.

Both Mr. Liu and Mr. Zhang have pleaded guilty.

The court heard that one Ottawa resident of Chinese origin, Quing Ciu Guan, who had failed in an attempt to sponsor her husband from China, received a call seeking a $15,000 bribe.

She agreed to a meeting at a Harvey's fast-food restaurant in Ottawa, where Mr. Zhang and another accomplice who hasn't been charged showed up.

Unbeknownst to them, the woman had contacted police, and plainclothes RCMP officers were secretly watching the meeting.

Mr. Liu, who was testifying at his pre-sentencing yesterday, portrayed himself as a man with a gambling problem who was merely taking orders from his boss.

He would lose most of his wages at the Montreal casino and was lured by the $500 to $700 cash bonuses Mr. Wong offered him, the court heard.

In their investigation, the RCMP intercepted thousands of conversations over several months, many in Urdu, Punjabi, Italian, Mandarin and Cantonese.