News/Canada: Smuggling network extensive, officials say China's reach 'way beyond'

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Subject: News/Canada: Smuggling network extensive, officials say China's reach 'way beyond'
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Jul 07 2000 - 12:35:11 EDT


Yet again a trafficking case misclassified as smuggling.

melanie....

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Smuggling network extensive, officials say China's reach 'way beyond'
Canada, U.S.
Andrew Mitrovica
The Globe and Mail Friday, May 5, 2000

Toronto -- The tentacles of the people-smuggling ring smashed by U.S.
authorities this week reach from China all the way to Central America,
law-enforcement sources say.

"This smuggling operation extends way beyond Canada and the United States,"
one of these sources said. "It's much more complicated and involves a lot
more people than those already out there."

The migrant-smuggling ringleaders, believed to be senior Chinese government
officials -- including a leading general in the People's Liberation Army --
dispatched couriers to Guatemala in December to bribe authorities to obtain
scores of Mexican visas for use in the illicit trade, the law-enforcement
sources said.

However, the mission failed, they said.

"They [the ringleaders] sent another mule to Guatemala with [valid Chinese]
passports to try and get Mexican visas, but the idiot got caught. He sent
the passports back to Canada by courier," one source said.

The courier package containing the Chinese passports was intercepted by
Canada Customs border-control officers in Toronto, who eventually handed
them over to the RCMP, another source said.

The Mounties then launched a probe into the Canadian "middleman" involved
in the smuggling operation who attempted unsuccessfully to obtain the
Mexican visas.

The Canadians implicated in the migrant-smuggling trade, the
law-enforcement sources said, are responsible for arranging passage by
plane or boat for migrants into the United States or Canada.

Migrants have to pay up to $50,000 (U.S.) for the travel documents and
transport to North America. Many end up working in New York in slave-like
conditions in Chinese-controlled businesses. Others are forced into
prostitution in order to repay criminal gangs -- known as snakeheads -- who
lend the migrants the money to buy the travel documents at exorbitant
interest rates.

One of the Canadians who played a key role in the Central American end of
the sophisticated smuggling operation was already on an RCMP "hot list"
before he was arrested by U.S. authorities this week, sources said.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan said yesterday that he
had "heard" that one of the Canadians arrested by the U.S. Justice
Department was under RCMP investigation before his arrest.

Five Canadians have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department with
conspiring to smuggle Chinese migrants from China into the United States by
bribing an undercover agent who posed as a corrupt immigration official.

The probe, codenamed Operation Squeeze Play, also led to charges against
two Chinese men from from Fujian province, believed to be the ringleaders
of the smuggling scheme.

The ring members allegedly paid $260,000 (U.S.) to the "corrupt"
immigration official in exchange for U.S. visas for hundreds of valid
Chinese passports.

The Canadians face up to 15 years in jail and a possible fine of up to
$600,000 (U.S.) if convicted of the bribery and smuggling charges.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
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