A West Vancouver woman charged with human trafficking obtained a passport for her young Tanzanian housekeeper by fraudulent means, clearing the way for her to bring the worker to Canada, a B.C. Supreme Court trial has heard.
On Thursday, the alleged victim – who cannot be named under a publication ban – told the court through a Swahili interpreter that in 2008, Mumtaz Ladha, 60, had an employee of the Ladha family business pose as the young woman's uncle for the passport application process. In Tanzania, an applicant must have a parent, legal guardian or close relative sign off on the application.
While the woman did not hear Ms. Ladha speak of the ploy explicitly, she claims she overheard Ms. Ladha and the "fake uncle" talking about the passport application before presenting her with forms to sign. She signed the forms because she was told to, she testified.
The court also heard details of two visa applications – the first one was denied – prepared for the young woman by Ms. Ladha. The first one, an application for a two-month visa for a "domestic employee," included a cover letter by Ms. Ladha, who told the High Commission of Canada to Tanzania in Dar es Salaam that the young woman had never been to Canada and "this would be an ideal opportunity for her to accompany me as I am unwell at the moment," Crown prosecutor Peter La Prairie read from the evidence.
The alleged victim told the court Ms. Ladha was not sick at the time and she had never known Ms. Ladha to need a companion on her frequent travels. But again, she signed the document because Ms. Ladha told her to. After the first application was denied, Ms. Ladha submitted another, which also contained many inaccuracies, claimed the woman, now in her mid-20s. This time, however, Ms. Ladha took the additional step of acquiring a doctor's note for herself, the alleged victim testified.
When Crown counsel pressed on, the woman said: "She needed to bring to Immigration. She was not sick."
Earlier on Thursday, the Crown painted a portrait of a young, single mother in Tanzania who worked long hours at both Ms. Ladha's home and at a salon she owned, in hopes of one day earning more money elsewhere. After being hired as a cleaner at the salon, she had taken the initiative to learn how to do manicures and pedicures and give massages.
"I wanted to get another job at a place where I would be paid very well," she said through the interpreter.
In 2008, Ms. Ladha allegedly told the young woman she planned to open another salon in Canada and to come along. "I told her I could not go because of my son," she told the court. "I did not want to leave my child."
A few days later, Ms. Ladha allegedly sweetened the deal, promising her $200 a month in Canada. At the salon in Tanzania, she earned just 100,000 shillings – about $60 Canadian – per month. The trip would only be for six months, Ms. Ladha allegedly told her.
Ms. Ladha has pleaded not guilty to four counts under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: human trafficking; employing a foreign national without authorization; misrepresenting facts to the High Commission of Canada in Tanzania; and misrepresenting facts to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The trial, which has been plagued with a number of language issues, will stand down until at least Monday as the court locates a new interpreter.