No criminal charges laid in controversial immigration program
© Guardian photo
From left, Cora Plourd, Susan Holmes and Svetlana Tenetko, gathered at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown for a news conference outlining their allegations of fraud and bribery in the Provincial Nominee Program in this Guardian file photo.
A three-year RCMP probe into allegations of fraud and bribery involving Prince Edward Island’s controversial immigrant investor program is now closed.
The lengthy review of P.E.I.’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) quietly ended a few months ago, said Sherry MacDougall, senior communications adviser with the P.E.I. RCMP.
No criminal charges have been laid.
“The PNP file is closed with no new information provided to RCMP for review/investigation,” MacDougall said in an email to The Guardian.
“To date, none of the information provided to us has led to any criminal charges.”
The probe was originally launched after explosive allegations of fraud and bribery involving senior government officials who administered the PNP were sent to Citizenship and Immigration Canada in 2011.
The allegations, which include claims these officials accepted cash bribes by Chinese applicants to the PNP, were then forwarded by the federal department to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Three former civil servants who worked on this program, Cora Plourd, Svetlana Tenetko and Susan Holmes, made the allegations, which garnered national headlines.
Suitcases and envelopes stuffed with cash changing hands in exchange for approval by applicants from foreign countries into P.E.I.’s immigrant investor program as a means to gain fast-tracked Canadian visas were just some of the allegations.
The timing was especially explosive as they came in the midst of P.E.I.’s 2011 provincial election.
At the time, Premier Robert Ghiz called the allegations “crazy” and accused the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party and then-PC party leader Olive Crane of orchestrating the whole thing for political gain.
Both Crane and the federal immigration minister’s office denied any involvement.
CBSA closed its probe into the PNP in November of 2011 after the agency failed to turn up enough evidence to support laying charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Officers in the commercial crime unit of the P.E.I. RCMP continued its review of the Provincial Nominee Program until just a few months ago, expanding its probe in 2012 to include the program in its entirety, going all the way back to its beginnings in 2001.
This was done after the list of PNP beneficiaries was finally released after a
2012 judicial review overturned a freedom of information request that denied access to the list of immigrant investment recipients.
MacDougall stressed due diligence was done on the RCMP’s review of the PNP, but added any new information that might come forward could re-open the review at any time.
“As is the case with any file, we are always open to new information that might have merit,” MacDougall said.
NDP Leader Mike Redmond says he still believes this program was abused by government officials and wants a public inquiry to be held in the P.E.I. Provincial Nominee Program.
He pointed to the 2009 auditor general’s investigation into this program, which found a number of rules were broken or sidestepped by program administrators and senior officials.
“We’ve never got true answers on the use of proceeds (of the investments) and there were a lot of companies that were opened and closed, a lot of numbered companies, the fact that NGOs were receiving provincial nominee monies,” Redmond said.
“How many closely connected Liberals and Conservatives received more than four units (investments)? These are all areas of great concern to the general public and questions that have been unanswered.”
The federal government changed its Provincial Nominee Program rules to disallow the way P.E.I. was investing immigrant monies back in 2008.
The federal government required nominated immigrants to take an active, day-to-day role in the companies they invested in. P.E.I.’s program did not offer an active role to PNP investors.
In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called the Ghiz government’s management of the PNP a ‘serious failure.’
But in his final year-end interview with The Guardian, Ghiz defended his record on the PNP, saying he has no regrets about the way it was handled by his administration.