It was a fraud operation on a scale that’s difficult to imagine, involving forged passports, fake jobs, and up to 1,200 people- most of them in Metro Vancouver.
The goal? Canadian citizenship… without having actually lived in Canada.
46 year old Sunny Wang was finally convicted as the ringleader in the operation last month.
Lynda Steele spoke with Ian Young of the South China Morning Post, who covered the case, about how he got away with it for so long.
How it worked
The fraud was elaborate. Essentially, wealthy Chinese businessmen would obtain permanent residency status for themselves and their family. But while the family would stay in Canada, the breadwinner would return to China.
That’s where Wang stepped in. Young says he forged their passports, along with a slew of supporting documents to make it look like the clients were here the whole time. After faking residency for three to four years, they would then apply for citizenship.
“Many of them were actually claiming to live in Canada, and had set themselves up with fake jobs to allow them to claim that they were in fact living in Canada when they were actually in China, and that obviously is illegal. Basically he’d add fake stamps to the Chinese passports to hide the fact for great periods of time, these wealthy migrants were actually living in China.”
The price tag? $10 million a head. And it worked. Wang got away with it for nearly eight years, running his racket from 2006-2014.
Young says Wang did such brisk business because for many of his clients, residency in Canada was not a privilege, or something to be treasured, but rather something to be endured.
He says there’s even a word for it in Chinese: yiminjian. Directly translated, it means ‘immigration jail’ – essentially, that the time spent earning citizenship in another country is like a jail term.
Young says as clearly illegal as the operation was, he can also see how the Canadian system, which treats immigration as a business, allowed the mindset to develop.
“At the end of the day, Canada has been selling permanent residency via its investor migrant program and the Quebec immigrant investor program. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch actually, in the mindset, that if permanent residency itself is begin sold, why not be able to buy your way out of the obligations of permanent residency?”
And how to stop it from happening again? Simple, says young: stop wealth based migration, which breeds the mindset that citizenship can be bought and sold.