Well, Ms. Caplan was certainly upstaged on this one – as she tried (ineffectually) to “engage” her “partners” in China (not even the media was especially interested in her) – the Americans were quietly doing something about the problem. Wonder how she will respond?
|Doug Kerr reports for CBC TV [See Video] Theresa Lalonde reports for CBC Radio [Listen to Audio]||CBC NEWSWORLD|
Wed May 3 ,2000
DETROIT – Two Canadians have been arrested in connection with a human smuggling operation. A man from Winnipeg and one from Toronto face charges.
The two are accused of being the ring leaders in an operation that smuggled people from China to Canada and then helps them enter the U.S.
They appeared in a Detroit court Wednesday afternoon.
Two other Canadians are also being held by police, and two high ranking Chinese officials are under indictment. It’s unclear if they will be arrested.
Last summer, Canadian authorities intercepted four boats carrying 600 migrants.
They came from Fujian province in China. U.S. authorities have indicted two senior Chinese officials from that province.
The U.S. government estimates 20,000 Chinese migrants try to illegally enter Canada and the U.S. each year.
Canadians caught in Chinese smuggling ring, U.S. says
ROBERT RUSSO | Canadian Press
WASHINGTON (CP) – Several Canadians were accused Tuesday of funnelling $260,000 in bribes to a U.S. official as part of a plot to smuggle hundreds of Chinese migrants into the United States.
The Canadians – four from Toronto and one from Winnipeg – are accused of providing some of the money as well as logistical support as part of the conspiracy.
They were arrested as part of an operation code-named Project Squeeze Play run by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to stem the tide of illegal migrants from China’s Fujian province.
The conspirators paid the bribe money for entry visas for more than 400 Chinese, U.S. authorities said in an indictment released Tuesday. The Fujianese migrants were to be flown from China to Detroit’s Metropolitan airport on commercial flights as part of the scheme.
“The Canadians were middlemen,” said Gina Vitrano, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.
“They would give the money to an INS inspector posing as a corrupt immigration inspector for visas for the Chinese.”
Two Chinese nationals were also indicted as part of the sting. Vitrano refused to confirm reports that they were senior Chinese military or government officials.
Any involvement of Chinese government officials would fly in the face of assurances Beijing gave last week to Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan that China was doing everything possible to stem alien traffic to North America.
The conspiracy would also seem to confirm fears that another wave of Chinese migrants could appear on Canadian shores this summer.
The RCMP played no role in the police operation, even though five of those arrested live in Canada.
“The INS didn’t need any help on this,” Vitrano said.
American prosecutors said two of the Canadians involved in the plot – Hyo Young Park of Winnipeg and Tong Choe of Toronto – were indicted on charges of conspiring to smuggle aliens and to bribe a public official.
The charges carry maximum sentences of 10 to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $600,000 upon conviction.
A father and two daughters from the Toronto suburb of Scarborough – Hip Chow, Jennifer Chow and Ellis Chow – were detained during the sting. They were told the U.S. government intends to indict them within 30 days on alien smuggling charges, Vitrano said.
The Chows were allowed to return home after posting a $25,000 bond and are scheduled to appear in a Detroit court on May 22.
About 20,000 Chinese migrants enter North America illegally each year, U.S. officials estimate. After agreeing to pay a fee of up to $50,000 US to Chinese gangs, the migrants disappear into the large Chinese communities in New York and California and live virtually as slaves.
Many of the women who don’t find work in restaurants or in the garment industry are forced to turn to prostitution to pay back their entry fees.
Failure to pay could lead to their deaths or the deaths of relatives still in China.
“The Canadians all say the ringleaders were in China,” Vitrano said.
The Canadians, along with associates in the United States, passed along 425 Chinese passports to a man they believed was a corrupt customs official. The official convinced the conspirators he would place U.S. entry visas in the passports in exchange for a total of $260,000 US.
“The Canadians would meet with the INS agent at a hotel near the Detroit airport,” Vitrano said. Plans were confirmed and money was exchanged there, the indictment said.
Park and Choe helped 16 aliens make it into the United States through the Detroit airport in March using the visas obtained through bribery, according to court documents. Vitrano admitted U.S. authorities have no idea where they are.
“On or about March 30, 2000, Park and Choe met with Inspector (Ronald) Katz in his undercover capacity and paid him $42,000 in bribe money for fraudulently procured visas,” the indictment said.
Four barely seaworthy boats carrying 600 migrants arrived in British Columbia from Fujian last summer. Most migrants quickly claimed refugee status. Only 11 have been accepted so far and 23 have been deported. About 80 of the migrants have disappeared.
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner suggested the arrests were a warning to Chinese gangs who may be planning to smuggle more migrants over the summer.
“Criminal organizations responsible for trafficking in human beings have been dealt a major setback,” Meissner said.
© The Canadian Press, 2000