Penticton business gets $75,000 in fines for role in immigration scheme | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton business gets $75,000 in fines for role in immigration scheme

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Singla Bros Holdings Ltd has been slapped with a $75,000 fine for helping foreigners get into Canada under false pretences.

Crown counsel Baljinder Girn and defence lawyer Ian Donaldson agreed to the penalty in a joint submission. However there was discrepancy over how willing the company’s owner, Paul Singla, was in the scheme.

After Singla’s home was raided in 2018 by Canadian Border Services, he was eventually charged with 10 charges of counsel or attempt to counsel misrepresentation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. He accepted responsibility for six of the 10 charges, avoiding criminal prosecution by pleading guilty last August through the Singla Bros business.

Along with his two brothers, Singla was the owner and operator of the Trout Creek Fruit Stand on Highway 97 in Summerland.

Through the fruit stand, the family tried to hire relatives from India through the Temporary Foreign Worker program with help from a Surrey company called Can-Asia Immigration Consultation.

In order to get approval to hire a foreign worker, employers must complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment to prove that that no Canadians or permanent residents could have done the job.

READ MORE: Singla Bros. Holdings Ltd. pleads guilty to 6 of 10 charges in Penticton courtroom

However, only “phantom jobs advertisements” were ever posted, according to the Crown.

Can-Asia impersonated Singla Bros through applications, emails and phone calls. The size of the operation in Trout Creek, the revenues, wages, number of employees, need for workers and efforts to hire locally were all misrepresented.

“It was a complex and organized scheme,” according to Grim. “Mr. Singla allowed the businesses to be used for this purpose.”

As mitigating factors, Grim said none of the 22 foreign nationals who received work permits were innocent.

“They knew what they were doing,” she said. “They knew they weren’t going to be working for Singla Bros.”

However temporary foreign workers are still vulnerable to some extent, she said, as “some of these individuals are desperate to leave their home country.”

READ MORE: Ottawa creates new regulator for immigration consultants to root out fraud

The Crown said although the scheme was complex, there was no proof it was profit driven, adding that Singla Bros is an established company with an otherwise good reputation in the community and the owner seemed remorseful.

Also, Grim said the case could have been dragged out in trial but Singla was willing to settle the case with a joint submission.

Donaldson said Singla became aware of the scheme but was not involved in the inception or promotion.

“(Can-Asia) had control over this whole operation not Singla,” he said.

Singla signed his name onto incriminating cheques and documents because he trusted a director with Can Asia.

While it may seem peculiar that Singla, when he was almost 70 years old, would have anything to do with the Rupinder “Ron” Singh Batth, the alleged fraudster from Can Asia, Donaldson said they met at a wedding.

Now, the reputation of the Singla Bros and the Singla family has been shattered in the public eye, his lawyer said, adding that his client “rues the day” he met Batth.

In a separate trial in Surrey, Batth is facing 54 counts under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and along with his wife who is facing 15 charges, the couple implicated a total of 29 businesses and 144 foreign nationals.

Judge Greg Koturbash asked if Singla benefited by having foreign nationals come to Canada.

Singla did receive that benefit, his lawyer admitted, “but he probably over paid for it.”

The amount he paid “seems quite out of whack with what a genuine consultant would charge. He didn’t get anything for free. He was a foolish man, your honour, that’s for sure.”

Donaldson said Singla had a bad feeling about the scheme, arguing that his client’s trust was misplaced and betrayed.

But the court rejected the notion that Singla was a victim in the scheme, Judge Koturbash said.

Singla Bros was handed a $10,000 penalty on five of the counts and a $25,000 fine on one, totalling $75,000. The company will have 15 months to pay it. 

Judge Koturbash shared some advice for Singla Bros: “Steer clear of these sorts of schemes and you’ll sleep well.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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