High-profile Liberal donor found to have swindled millions in immigration scheme

In the tightly-knit world of Vancouver’s wealthy Chinese immigrants, Paul Se Hui Oei stood out for his ties to some of Canada’s most powerful politicians

by Dan Levin

In the tightly-knit world of Vancouver’s wealthy Chinese immigrants, Paul Se Hui Oei stood out for his ties to some of Canada’s most powerful politicians and his mastery of cultivating guanxi, or personal relationships, that attracted legions of Chinese clients eager for his assistance in gaining a legal foothold in Canada.

But behind closed doors, the authorities say, Oei, a prominent immigration consultant and philanthropist, ran an elaborate fraud scheme, pocketing millions from investors, including many Chinese citizens led to believe their investment would help them secure permanent residency in Canada. Instead, the authorities say, he spent the money on luxury cars, beauty pageants and donations to political parties.

“Everything he said were lies,” said Chen Wei, a Chinese immigrant who testified earlier this year in a case against Oei before a British Columbia Securities Commission panel. Chen’s family invested $1 million in Oei’s project, according to hearing transcripts.

On Wednesday, the British Columbia Securities Commission ruled Oei, who denied the allegations, had swindled nearly $4 million from investors.

Oei and his companies “misappropriated these funds and used them for their own purposes and not as the investors were told they would be used,” the panel stated. Oei declined to comment.

British Columbia is trying to shed its reputation as a hotbed of financial crime and to curb international money laundering at its casinos, a practice the provincial attorney general said was known as the “Vancouver model.”

But it is unclear whether Oei will have to pay for his malfeasance. Although the commission is expected to impose penalties on Oei to recoup the fraudulently obtained funds, the provincial regulatory agency has faced criticism recently from the British Columbia government for its dismal enforcement record.

In response to an investigation last month by The Vancouver Sun that showed the commission had collected less than two percent of $398 million in financial penalties over the past decade, the B.C. finance minister, Carole James, called on the commission to improve its enforcement methods.

“It is disturbing to see the apparent lack of accountability for white collar criminals who have ruined people’s lives through financial fraud,” James said in an emailed statement.

According to experts, Oei’s case is part of a pattern of problems with Canada’s immigration programs, which, like the United States, set aside coveted residency permits for foreign investors. Some also say it underscores a troubling flaw in the Canadian justice system, which often allows white-collar criminals to walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

“Canada doesn’t take financial crime seriously,” said Christine Duhaime, a lawyer in Vancouver who specializes in laws dealing with terrorist financing and money laundering.

In Vancouver, Oei owned an immigration consulting and financial services company, and sought to use his connections in the Chinese community to raise money for a recycling startup, Cascade.

full story at http://nationalpost.com/news/politics/b-c-liberal-donor-committed-fraud-in-immigration-scheme-panel-finds

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