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B.C. man receives six-month conditional sentence in human smuggling case

Keith Fraser

(Jason Payne/Postmedia Network files)

(Jason Payne/Postmedia Network files)

A B.C. man who pleaded guilty to helping smuggle two people across the border into Canada has received a six-month conditional sentence.

In July 2016, Gurmeet Singh entered a guilty plea in B.C. provincial court in Surrey to the offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The following month, Judge Kimberley Arthur-Leung sentenced Singh, whose real estate licence had been suspended after the charges were laid, to a 12-month conditional sentence.

He appealed that sentence, arguing that the judge had made a number of errors and that a more appropriate sentence was a conditional discharge.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven rejected his appeal arguments but cut the conditional sentence to six months because that was the maximum allowable length of a conditional sentence under the applicable law.

Court heard that Singh, described as a “well-regarded and successful businessman in the Indo-Canadian community,” paid $1,500 to people who smuggled Daler Singh and Nirmal Kaur — close family friends from India he considered his uncle and aunt — across the border from the United States into Canada.

He and his wife had travelled by car to Seattle where they met with the couple, who had arrived on a flight from India.

Singh paid for the couple to stay the night at a motel before the couple paid an additional US$2,000 to the driver of a vehicle to take them north to the Canada-U.S. border at Blaine, where they walked across the unfenced border into Surrey.

On the Canadian side, they were picked up by a woman who transported them to a nearby A&W restaurant where they met up again with Singh and his wife.

After leaving Seattle, Singh and his wife had used their Nexus cards to cross into Canada at the Pacific Highway border crossing at Surrey.

After the two couples, who came from the same village in India, met at the restaurant, they left in Singh’s BMW but were stopped by an RCMP surveillance team and arrested.

“A fair inference is that Mr. Singh’s plan was to have Daler Singh and Nirmal Kaur reside in Canada illegally on an indefinite or perhaps permanent basis,” said Justice Verhoeven in his ruling on the appeal.

Singh, a father of two who was 36 at the time of the sentencing, came to Canada from India in 2004 and became a Canadian citizen in 2011.

On the appeal, Singh’s lawyer argued that the sentencing judge had made several errors, including making a finding that Singh had sought out a person to assist him in bringing in the couple illegally. But Verhoeven rejected those arguments.

“What is clear, in any event, is that Mr. Singh was an active, knowing, and wilful participant in the scheme, and that he had some kind of direct dealings with the smugglers, inasmuch as he admitted that he paid them the $1,500,” said Verhoeven.

Singh’s conditions include that he is to obey a curfew and do 40 hours of community service at any place in the community other than a temple.

Verhoeven’ written ruling on the appeal concerning the December 2014 offence was posted at the court’s website Friday. It was given out orally in January.