Montrealer pleads guilty in immigration fraud

Canadian Press

Thursday, Aug 12, 2004

Montreal — A Montreal businessman has pleaded guilty for his part in a scheme that allegedly fixed immigration appeal hearings in exchange for cash bribes.

Woon Lam (Bill) Wong, 48, of nearby Laval, who pleaded guilty earlier this week to fraud against the government, obstructing justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy to commit fraud, will return to court on Dec. 13 to set a date for his sentencing hearing. The Crown has refused to release the details of the case against him until then.

The businessman was one of 11 Montreal-area residents charged in March with 278 counts ranging from fraud to passport forgery. He was vice-president of Montreal's Chinatown Chamber of Commerce as recently as last year.

The RCMP said the suspects were members of an organized criminal ring that fixed rulings at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

People Individuals paid bribes of $8,000 to $15,000 each in exchange for favourable IRB rulings, the RCMP said.

Mr. Wong's plea on Monday averted a lengthy preliminary hearing and a possible trial based on volumes of evidence gathered by the Mounties.

His lawyer, Jean Chalifoux, said Mr. Wong wanted to avoid a drawn-out case.

“Cases like this can last four or five years, and he decided that didn't interest him,” Mr. Chalifoux said in an interview on Thursday.

“He's in his 40s, [and] he has no criminal record, so he's not accustomed to this stress.”

The lawyer said the case against Mr. Wong included wiretaps and witness statements.

Court documents say Mr. Wong paid off immigration adjudicator Yves Bourbonnais, 62, to secure favourable rulings for several refugee applicants in 2001.

Mr. Bourbonnais, who faces 92 counts in connection with the alleged ring, has denied any wrongdoing.

A three-year RCMP probe indicated between 50 and 60 people facing hearings were offered positive judgments from the IRB in exchange for cash.

Mr. Bourbonnais, who has since left the board, was suspended from his duties as judicial officer in 2001 and his term has since expired.