The arrests are the latest chapter in an ongoing RCMP investigation into an alleged criminal organization that arranged marriages of convenience to allow foreign nationals to enter or remain in Canada.
Yesterday, the RCMP announced 39 people have been arrested and charged with 78 offences including misrepresentation or entering into fake marriages for immigration purposes.
The investigation, dubbed Project Conjugal, was begun in October 2009. RCMP Constable Erique Gasse is quoted by CBC as saying, "It was an anonymous tip that led to the project called 'Conjugal', the purpose of which is to address the legitimacy of hundreds of suspicious marriages."
The latest arrests by the RCMP's Immigration and Passport Section were of people who are alleged to have participated in marriages of convenience. A marriage of convenience is defined under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as a marriage entered into solely for immigration purposes.
Amadou Niang, 56, is alleged to be the ringleader of the alleged criminal enterprise. He is believed to have worked with others to arrange marriages of convenience, for money, mainly between North African men and Montreal women, many of whom are of Haitian descent. It is alleged that 315 such marriages were arranged. Niang, a Canadian citizen, is described as a bogus immigration consultant.
According to the Montreal Gazette, the alleged criminal enterprise was broken up early this year. In March, Niang appeared in court on 42 immigration charges. He appeared yesterday to face additional charges.
Niang's next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 23, and according to the Gazette, it is believed he is negotiating a plea bargain. The others arrested this week are due to appear in a Montreal court on Oct. 16.
After the arrests were made public, a joint statement was issued by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. In the statement the two ministers said, We wish to commend the RCMP Immigration and Passport Section for their successful efforts in bringing charges not only against the alleged mastermind of the operation, Mr. Niang, but against those individuals who allegedly chose to participate in a marriage fraud scheme designed to circumvent Canada's immigration laws.
The investigation is continuing and more arrests are expected.
The RCMP is requesting that anyone in the Montreal area who has information concerning suspicious immigration activity contact them at 514-939-8306.