The Globe and Mail is reporting the federal government has asked the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to investigate allegations of fraud and bribery in Prince Edward Island's PNP program.
The federal Citizenship and Immigration Department referred the case to police late Wednesday, says the Globe, after it received information from at least three former provincial public servants. Among the information were detailed allegations that, at a Marriott hotel suite in Hong Kong, would-be immigrant investors gave senior island bureaucrats cash-stuffed envelopes to have their applications approved.
“These allegations were recently brought to the attention of senior civil servants in the department. They have referred the allegations to the RCMP,” Candice Malcolm, press secretary to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wrote in an e-mail response to a question from The Globe and Mail.
The Globe and Mail reports the case has also been referred to the Canada Border Services Agency.
The Provincial Nominee Program was a federal-provincial partnership offering accelerated immigration for qualified skilled workers and experienced entrepreneurs who wished to settle in P.E.I. and become permanent residents of Canada.
The three individuals sent the allegations to the federal department and the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail.
Svetlana Tenetko, Susan Holmes and Cora Plourd all had responsibility for reviewing, investigating and approving applications under the provincial nominee program. They all say managers pressed them to approve files that they had already rejected.
“Ethically and morally, a lot of these files were not quality files,” Plourd said in an interview with the newspaper.
Tenetko’s allegations concerning the summer meetings in Hong Kong in 2008 – a trip paid for with fees charged to applicants – go beyond the claims of patronage that have dominated P.E.I. media and politics for three years.
She said word got out that provincial officials would be in Hong Kong to meet with prospective immigrants.
“Chinese applicants informed their friends,” she said in an interview wit the Globe and Mail. “These extra people, they had to bribe management because they were not on the list.”
Late Wednesday, Premier Robert Ghiz questioned the timing of the allegations. In less than three weeks, Islanders will vote on whether to re-elect Ghiz’s Liberal government
“Although there are clear political motivations behind these allegations – which have been raised repeatedly in the past and shown to have no substance – government will co-operate fully with any formal inquiries into these matters,” Ghiz said in a statement to The Globe. “I would also note that it is not overly surprising that those making the allegations waited three years to do so, and that their actions coincide with a provincial election.”
In early 2008, the federal government informed P.E.I. that it intended to tighten the rules for the program, which let the province nominate foreigners who made an investment in an island business and agreed to live in the province for a year.
In response, the P.E.I. government approved a plan to rush through applications in the summer of 2008 before the new rules took effect. The last-minute push raised about $400-million, equal to about one-third of the provincial government budget.
While some deals have been confirmed – immigrant investor money went to a Burger King owned by Liberal MLA Bush Dumville that later closed, and the deputy minister in charge of the file was asked to pay back funds, Brooke MacMillan, that went to businesses connected to his family – the government has never released a full list of companies that got investments.