CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - An immigration fraud trial involving two Charlottetown motel owners came to an end this morning after the Crown stayed all charges against them.
Siblings Ping Zhong and Yi Zhong, who own the Sherwood Motel, were facing multiple joint and individual counts of counselling, aiding and abetting misrepresentation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
After the proceedings ended, Ping Zhong left the court in tears before addressing the media to say she and her brother were happy, but also disappointed they lost the opportunity to testify.
“This has been three years we were living a nightmare and we were under tremendous stress,” she said.
Chief Judge Nancy Orr started hearing what was scheduled to be an eight-day trial in provincial court in Charlottetown on Dec. 4, almost three years after the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) raided the Sherwood Motel.
The trial was set to resume this morning after a weeklong break, but instead federal Crown prosecutor Caroline Lirette told the court she was exercising prosecutorial discretion and staying all charges.
A tearful family member who was with the Zhongs in court spoke to the media through a translator as she left the courtroom to say what happened wasn’t fair.
Ping Zhong said some of the siblings’ friends have shunned them and were scared due to the CBSA’s involvement in the investigation.
The motel owners also lost business and expansion opportunities, she said.
Both siblings told the media their story was news not just in P.E.I., but also in China.
Ping Zhong said the siblings were waiting for their chance to stand up in court to tell Orr and the world their side of the story.
“We want to stand up in court to prove to the world that we’re innocent. We’re innocent.”
The siblings didn’t do anything wrong and they helped people to stay in P.E.I., she said.
“We’re not ashamed of what we did.”
She also said the CBSA doesn’t want to admit what they did was wrong.
“We want justice and fairness to take place.”
The CBSA alleged the Zhongs counselled immigrants seeking permanent residency through P.E.I.’s provincial nominee program to provide addresses in the province, even though they didn’t live there.
After conducting an investigation, the agency said 566 immigrants used the motel or Ping Zhong’s home as their address between 2008 and 2015.
The siblings are from China, but Ping Zhong is a Canadian citizen and Yi Zhong is a permanent resident.
Ping Zhong said the siblings worked hard to build their business and didn’t do anything “dirty,”
“That’s not the case at all.”
With the charges stayed, Ping Zhong said the siblings want to build the business back up.
“We are not guilty at all.”
Yi Zhong also addressed the media and speaking through a translator, he said he and his sister didn’t get justice after three years.
He said he has never done anything illegal and he never tried to help immigrants do anything dirty or against Canadian law.
Yi Zhong said he has always followed Canadian rules.
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