'Immigration consultant' once again behind bars
Published: Wednesday, May 07, 2008
A self-styled immigration consultant who has a history of defying the law has been returned to jail after his surety had second thoughts and decided to revoke the security he had put up for his release.
Mohammed Bassale Wanli, 49, was arrested on April 30 by members of the Vancouver police department's financial crimes unit and charged with nine counts of fraud.
Crown counsel Mark Canofari opposed his release on grounds that he is a continuing danger to the public and represents a flight risk, but Vancouver Provincial Court judge William Kitchen decided — for no discernible reason — to set bail at $50,000.
Within days, Wanli had persuaded a Vancouver man to post a $50,000 surety, and he was set free.
This was a most distressing development, not only for me, but also for his many victims — not to mention Det.-Const. Michele Hanna, who has spent a great deal of time and effort to get this repeat offender to a place where he can do no harm.
Wanli is a Syrian who emigrated to the United States in the 1980s. By 1993, he had amassed six criminal convictions and was jailed multiple times for fraud, theft and false representation.
U.S. authorities ordered him to put up a $10,000 bond pending a deportation hearing, but instead of appearing at the hearing, he fled to Canada.
Upon entering Canada in 1999, he claimed refugee status and, despite his extensive criminal record, was granted it. This was the first missed opportunity: He should have been booted at that juncture.
Wanli then established an immigration consulting business called ATO Immigration, falsely held himself out as a lawyer, and began preying on immigrants who were desperate to stay in Canada.
In November 2000, the B.C. Law Society obtained an injunction to stop him from representing himself as a lawyer, but he persisted. In December 2007, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found him in contempt of that order and fined him $7,500.
Meanwhile, he was busy defrauding people in his property management business. In February 2003, he was charged and convicted on four counts of fraud, handed 12 months probation, and ordered to pay $12,100 restitution.
This was the second missed opportunity. In view of his criminal record in the United States and Canada, he should have been immediately deported.
But he was free once again to prey upon people. And sure enough, complaints came flooding into the financial crimes unit. Police recommended dozens of charges. So far, the Crown has only approved nine, but more are expected.
Despite this horrific backdrop, Judge Kitchen thought it was perfectly reasonable to grant Wanli bail. This was the third missed opportunity to keep Wanli a safe distance from society.
Wanli immediately got on the phone and persuaded Donald Ruttan, who is elderly with limited education and literacy, to spring him from jail.
Fortunately, in my view, Ruttan had a change of heart and revoked his bail, which had the effect of nullifying the bail order. Wanli was arrested at his home on Saturday morning and returned to jail.
Today, Crown counsel Canofari will argue in court that Wanli represents a clear and present danger and should be kept behind bars until the charges are heard. Let's hope the judge listens. Let's also hope that, if Wanli is eventually convicted, immigration officials will immediately deport him.
Jim Matkin, former executive director of the B.C. Law Society, sold his job and a large chunk of his reputation for a high-risk stock venture that has crashed and burned.
In November 2004, this column revealed that Matkin, while working as the law society's top executive, was moonlighting as president and chairman of Hydrogen Power Inc.
Hydrogen Power is a Seattle-based company that is developing technology to produce hydrogen by combining water with aluminum and certain catalysts. The company was private, but planned to go public on a U.S. exchange.
Problem was, the company was closely associated with Ricky Gujral and Terry Alexander, both of whom had been sanctioned by B.C. regulators for serious stock offences. The law society's benchers were not amused. After several intense meetings, Matkin resigned and threw his full energies into the hydrogen business.
For a while, things looked good. In 2005, Hydrogen Power went public by merging with a Nasdaq-listed company called Equitex Inc. The stock peaked at $6.68 in September of that year.
Matkin served as executive chairman of Hydrogen Power (which became a subsidiary of Equitex) until March 2006, then served as the company's special counsel and corporate secretary.
He also served as a director of Global Hydrofuels Technologies Inc., a private company controlled by Gujral and her father, Dilbaugh Gujral. Global Hydrofuels originally acquired the hydrogen technology from UBC and sub-licensed it to Hydrogen Power, becoming a major shareholder in the process.
The merger turned into a disaster, however. There was much internal dissension, culminating in January this year when Equitex officials filed a lawsuit against the Gujrals, their company Global Hydrofuels, and several associates, alleging fraud, misappropriation of corporate opportunity and breach of fiduciary duties.
The plaintiffs subsequently petitioned Hydrogen Power into receivership, and the stock has slumped to a mere four cents. Not quite the break-through technology that Matkin had once envisioned.