A Vancouver immigration consultant is facing charges under both the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for allegedly using forged documents.
Carlos Alberto Alaniz is accused of either misrepresenting or withholding material facts in relation to visitor extension applications relating to more than two dozen people.
Alaniz, the owner of Fast Track Immigration Services Inc., faces four criminal counts of using a forged bank statement, as well as 20 violations of the federal immigration legislation.
The charges were sworn this summer, though they relate to incidents that allegedly occurred from 2013 to 2017.
“The allegations against my client are just that, allegations,” Alaniz’s lawyer, Matthew Nathanson, said in an email.
“My client is presumed innocent, and we look forward to defending this case in court.”
‘Raises a concern’
The situation underscores ongoing concerns about the regulation of immigration consultants, which have led to plans for a new Canadian regulatory body.
Alaniz was charged in June, but the Canada Border Services Agency did not inform the current Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). It learned about the charges from CBC News.
ICCRC oversees how thousands of immigration consultants in Canada conduct themselves, providing education, licensing and discipline. But the creation of a new professional college would put consultants on the same regulatory footing as lawyers or doctors, providing a strengthened disciplinary process.
Alaniz has no disciplinary history with the current council.
ICCRC’s director of professional conduct, Michael Huynh, says the council would have liked to have been informed of the charges earlier.
Under normal circumstances, Huynh said, the council would initiate proceedings that could result in an interim suspension.
“The fact of [the case] itself raises a concern,” he said. “The criminal charges, for them to be laid, have to meet a certain threshold.”
While not speaking to the specifics of the Alaniz case, the purpose of any suspension would not be to prejudge the case, Huynh said, but “to protect the public and also to protect the reputation of the profession.”
The council would also likely hold its own hearing, regardless of whether an immigration consultant is cleared by the courts, he said.
‘Lost through the cracks’
ICCRC has told the CBSA that the council wants to be kept abreast of any investigations, so it can take actions to protect the public — particularly if charges become a matter of public record.
“This sounds like one of those situations where it sounds like it was lost through the cracks, unfortunately,” said Huynh.
“Certainly that has significant consequences. Obviously, what we’d like to be doing — and the CBSA agrees with us on this — is that this information being public is beneficial, insofar as once it’s disclosed to us, we can move forward on our interim suspension motion and make sure this person is no longer considered an active immigration consultant.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, Alaniz handles “day-to-day management and oversight in all aspects of immigration client accounts” and deals “with compliance and legal issues while filing work and permanent residence applications for our clients.”
The criminal charges allegedly involve the use of forged HSBC bank statements purported to belong to four different individuals.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act charges allegedly involve information provided with respect to visitor extension applications and, in the cases of two individuals, study permits.
None of the charges have been proven in court.
The CBSA did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations or the origins of the investigation.
‘No better time than now’
Last spring, the federal government unveiled plans to crack down on unethical immigration consultants, including the creation of a new professional college to replace the ICCRC, which is a non-profit organization.
The legislation will allow the ICCRC to evolve into the new college.
The move came after a 2017 report called for a broad overhaul of the way the profession is regulated, in part because of harrowing stories from newcomers who put their trust and hope for citizenship in the wrong hands.
Federal legislation to establish the new college was passed in June and received royal assent.
The act would give the new regulator investigative powers to compel witnesses and would also establish lines of protocol when it comes to communication with bodies like the RCMP and the CBSA.
The act still needs to be proclaimed into law by the minister of immigration.
Huynh says that should be a priority for the new Liberal minority government.
“There’s no better time than now to get moving on this,” Huynh said.
“The reason it’s been so challenging for ICCRC over the past seven years is this lack of clarity on what ICCRC can do, what information … various government bodies [can] share with ICCRC.”
Alaniz is slated to next appear in a Vancouver provincial court on Nov. 13.