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British Columbia Accused in human-trafficking case told immigration she needed caregiver in Canada, trial hears

Mumtaz Ladha, the accused in a human-trafficking case, gets into an elevator to go back into court on Sept. 4, 2013.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A British Columbia woman accused of human trafficking told immigration officials she was bringing her Tanzanian caregiver to Canada because she needed her help during a two-month visit, the woman's trial heard Thursday.

In a letter submitted with the woman's application for a visitor's visa, Mumtaz Ladha said she suffered from vertigo and osteoarthritis, and needed to bring her long-time employee.

The application submitted to the Canadian embassy in Dar es-Salaam said the single mother of one would be staying with her and would be supported by her for the duration of the visit.

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"Letter from Canadian citizen employer on file states principal applicant has worked for her for five years. Employer states owns hair dresser salon and is a resident of Tanzania," Jessica Poon, a citizenship officer for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. read in court from the woman's immigration file.

The first application was denied, noting there was no proof of funds provided by either the woman or Ladha.

"Not sufficient documents on file to assess principal applicants assets or ties, or employer ties to Tanzania. Given no previous travel, weak establishment of ties, no proof of assets or funds, I'm not satisfied the principal applicant is a bona fide visitor and will leave Canada at end of stay. Also not satisfied employer has sufficient funds to support trip," Poon read from the file entered as evidence.

"Refused."

A second application was quickly submitted, and this time the woman submitted a note from Ladha's doctor and a business license for the hair and beauty salon Ladha owned in Tanzania, as well as a business card of Ladha's daughter, a professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business with whom they would be living.

"Your employer states that she is in poor health and needs assistance," the immigration officer noted in the second application.

Upon request, the woman also submitted a Canadian bank statement from Ladha showing a balance in excess of $549,000.

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"I take it half a million dollars in a bank account, that would be more than enough to satisfy a visa officer that the employer has sufficient funds?" Crown lawyer Charles Hough asked.

"Correct," Poon replied.

A visitor's visa was issued allowing the woman, who cannot be named due to a court publication ban, to remain in Canada for up to six months after her arrival. Before that period expired, she submitted with the help of an immigration consultant an application to have her visitor's visa extended until July 14, 2009.

On June 3, 2009, the woman fled Ladha's home in the well-heeled British Properties neighbourhood of West Vancouver for a women's shelter.

Ladha is accused of luring the woman to Canada with the promise of a job in a hair salon, only to force her to work around the clock as a maid in her $4-million West Vancouver mansion.

She faces four counts under the Immigration Act, including human trafficking, two counts of misrepresentation to immigration officials and one count related to employment of the woman without the required permits.

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Defence has said the woman was not an employee, but a companion who was treated like a member of the family.

Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon, who is hearing the case without a jury, heard earlier that the woman arrived at the women's shelter with no money, no clothes and no passport.

West Vancouver police retrieved her passport and some clothing from a small, windowless room off the pool room in the mansion.

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