B.C. immigration lawyer sentenced to 22 months in jail for forging paperwork

B.C. immigration lawyer sentenced to 22 months in jail for forging paperwork

A B.C. immigration lawyer with deep ties to the province’s South Asian and political communities has been sentenced to 22 months in jail after pleading responsible to 17 costs together with forgery and the misrepresentation of information.

Balraj Singh “Roger” Bhatti, 63, was charged in 2020 and accused of colluding with international nationals to make fraudulent claims for refugee safety in Canada. He was suspended by the Regulation Society of British Columbia at the moment.

In saying the fees, the Canada Border Providers Company (CBSA) stated Bhatti, primarily based in Delta, B.C., labored with an interpreter, Sofiane Dahak, in offences that concerned folks coming from Central Europe and passed off between 2002 and 2014.

The CBSA started investigating Bhatti in 2012. Bhatti began practising legislation in 1983 and branched out to immigration legislation in 1990.

A close-up picture of a CBSA shoulder patch.
The Canada Border Providers Company started investigating the immigration legislation observe of Roger Bhatti in 2012. (CBC)

In his causes for sentencing, just lately posted on-line, B.C. Provincial Court docket Decide Mark Jetté wrote that on the time of the offences Bhatti was one of many busiest legal professionals within the Decrease Mainland representing shoppers in search of conference refugee standing.

The court docket discovered that Bhatti cast notes within the title of his household doctor and others saying shoppers had been unwell in a bid to adjourn or postpone hearings with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

The notes typically stated {that a} shopper suffered a coronary heart assault, lack of listening to or had kidney stones. The physicians whose letterhead was used for the paperwork testified in court docket that they’d not ready them.

The court docket stated that Bhatti “submitted Hungarian police reviews and/or medical data which he knew to be false, with the intention of inducing the IRB to make a discovering in favour of his shoppers.”

Bhatti’s legal professionals, together with former B.C. legal professional basic Wally Oppal, requested for a conditional sentence for his or her shopper, who had no prior legal convictions.

A conditional sentence was denied by Jetté because of the “seriousness of those offences,” he wrote.

“The truth that Mr. Bhatti was appearing in his capability as a lawyer all through, the affect Mr. Bhatti’s conduct has had on the integrity of the conference refugee system on this nation, and Mr. Bhatti’s excessive diploma of ethical blameworthiness name for a sentence of institutional jail.”

Neighborhood ties

The explanations for sentencing embody sections that describe the work strain Bhatti was underneath in representing so many consumers.

His legal professionals equipped a number of letters to the court docket, together with one from former MLA Moe Sihota, who’s married to Bhatti’s spouse’s sister, describing the toll Bhatti’s workload and dedication to his shoppers was taking up his well being.

A scientific and forensic psychologist additionally offered proof that Bhatti had extreme despair on the time of the offences, which was exacerbated by his work habits.

“It was obvious that Mr. Bhatti’s busy observe and work habits had been taking each a bodily and emotional toll,” wrote Jetté.

The explanations additionally weigh how a sentence to be served in jail might additional undermine Bhatti’s well being and his obligations to his household and group.

Repute ‘broken past restore’

Bhatti’s father, Kesar, was president of the Khalsa Diwan Society and instrumental within the constructing of the Sikh Temple on Ross Road in Vancouver. His spouse, Debbie Parhar, was a particular assistant in Mike Harcourt’s workplace when he was B.C. premier. She later turned Bhatti’s workplace bookkeeper.

“He’s a part of a close-knit Indo-Canadian group; his repute inside that group specifically has been broken, doubtless past restore,” wrote Jetté. “His spouse has suffered and can proceed to endure on account of his actions.”

Jetté additionally thought-about aggravating components within the sentencing, writing that creating false medical and police reviews, “was a complicated and premeditated course of conduct which continued over a interval of years, and impacted a number of claims.”

Interpreter sentence

In mid-June 2021, Dahak entered responsible pleas and obtained a conditional sentence of two years much less a day with circumstances that included home arrest for the primary eight months, a curfew for the subsequent eight months and 100 group work hours. He was additionally fined $14,000.

The CBSA stated in 2020 that many of the claimants from Bhatti and Dahak’s offences had been discovered to not be refugees and had been faraway from Canada.