HALIFAX: Iraqi Hassan Al-Awaid helped thousands pretend they were in Canada to get around citizenship rules
If anyone dialed the Halifax phone number Mohd Morelley wrote in his application for citizenship as proof he was integrating in Canada, it would ring out in an office on the outskirts of Halifax. Someone might answer, but it wouldn’t be Morelley or his wife or three children, who all wanted to be Canadians.
They were all living in Kuwait.
Along with the bogus phone number, Morelley and his family bought a full-service bogus citizenship package from an immigration consultant, including a Halifax address for a home he never lived in, tax returns and employment records for a job he never held, payment of utility bills he never used, ATM withdrawals to show local transactions he didn’t make and a letter from a local Islamic society saying he was deeply involved in the activities at a mosque he didn’t attend.
My office is one of the famous offices in Nova Scotia
Everything needed to create a pretend life in Canada.
Morelley’s phantom phone — and fake life — were far from unique: more than 140 cell phones, labeled with the number and name of a client, were organized in the Bedford Highway office of the Canadian Commercial Group, run by immigration consultant Hassan Al-Awaid.
On the federal government’s website, in no fewer than 21 languages ranging from Arabic to Vietnamese, people looking to immigrate to Canada are warned to be on the lookout for fraud and to stay away from unauthorized consultants.
Don’t be the victim of a scam, the site warns.
And don’t be tempted into using false documents.
Despite the government’s efforts to regulate the industry, however, large numbers of unlicensed consultants continue to operate under the radar, sometimes going to great lengths to dupe the system — or their clients — and making loads of money doing it.
Last fall, Xun Wang, an unlicensed consultant in Richmond, B.C., was handed a stiff seven-year sentence for carrying out one of the biggest immigration frauds authorities say they’d ever seen involving doctored passports and other forged documents.
While that prosecution was successful, critics say so-called “ghost consultants” continue to operate largely in an enforcement vacuum
At least 1,244 clients were listed in Al-Awaid’s files, most accompanied by family members.
And he is but one of several crooked consultants caught recently peddling easy ways around the residency (and other) requirements for foreigners to gain Canadian citizenship.
Hassan Al-Awaid, 62, an Iraqi national, worked in public relations and marketing for a government-owned petrochemical company in Kuwait before immigrating to Canada in 1992 and settling in Nova Scotia, where he and his wife had three children, including twin girls.