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CBSA treated Mexican businessman unfairly, court rules

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A Mexican businessman who unsuccessfully tried to visit Vancouver last year has won a court challenge of a CBSA ruling that he was inadmissible.


Nick Procaylo / PNG

A Mexican business accused in his country of money laundering was treated unfairly by the Canada Border Services Agency who considered him inadmissible to visit Canada, a federal judge says.

Justice Shirzad Ahmed of the Federal Court of Canada ruledthat the CBSA officer who sent Sergio Antonio Reyes Garcia back to Mexico when he flew in to Vancouver on March 3, 2019, did not have the legal authority to declare the businessman inadmissible.

Ahmed said the officer was within his rights to decide that Reyes Garcia had misrepresented information about the money laundering investigation when he first applied for an electronic travel authorization that would allow him repeated entry to Canada as a visitor.

But Ahmed sided with Reyes Garcia’s claim that he was denied due process by the CBSA.

“In my view, it was open to the officer to form his own opinion as to an alleged misrepresentation based on the interview and the applicant’s (electronic) application,” Ahmed said in a written ruling released Jan. 22.

“However, although it was open to the officer to form an opinion as to an alleged misrepresentation … the officer did not have the authority to make a final admissibility determination.”

The judge said Canadian immigration law says the CBSA officer could have written a report of his concerns and sent the matter to the Immigration Division to hold an inadmissibility hearing.

Only the minister’s delegate or the Immigration Division may make such findings, the judge ruled. “Therefore, the officer erred in finding that the applicant had misrepresented and that he was therefore inadmissible,” Ahmed said. “I find the officer breached procedural fairness and that the officer’s decision is unreasonable.”

Ahmed set aside the original CBSA decision and sent the case back for another officer to consider.

Last fall, Postmedia obtained a transcript of Reyes Garcia’s interview with the CBSA agent.

In it, the agent alleged Reyes Garcia and his business partner Manuel Barreiro had been misusing foreign companies, including one set up in B.C. called Kross Investments Ltd.

“What connects you to Manuel is a money-laundering scandal in Mexico,” CBSA agent Rahim Bajwa said to Reyes Garcia, citing conversations found on the Mexican man’s cellphone. “There is discussion about money leaving Mexico and entering Canada — discussion about you and Manuel attempting secret meetings in Canada and opening up false companies in Canada.”

Reyes Garcia said the allegations against him and his business partner stem from a “political problem” in Mexico. He said the former Mexican president’s party targeted Barreiro for investigation because he had business with a rival presidential candidate.

Reyes Garcia said that while allegations were made against him in the Mexican media, he was never charged and has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

He voluntarily returned to Mexico after his airport interview, but filed the Federal Court challenge to regain his travel document.

Bajwa, the CBSA agent, noted that on Reyes Garcia’s cellphone were details of financial transactions involving cash sent from Mexico through the B.C. company to a Swiss bank.

“In the most basic form, what is happening right now is called money laundering. These activities and these sorts of transactions are confined to money laundering — money leaving Mexico, going through Canada and various other parts of the world,” Bajwa said.

“Once the money has left Mexico, it is difficult to trace. Money launderers are aware of this and try their best to hide the trade because they don’t want anything to come back to them. This is done because the money is earned through illegitimate means, including drug trafficking, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds etc.”

 kbolan@postmedia.com

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