In my last post we went over some of the complex but disturbing developments revealed by the CBC’s iTeam regarding the origins of Brightenview, the company with which the Saskatchewan government has jumped into bed as proof their Global Transportation Hub is a viable project.
Wait til you hear what Leo and the CBC uncovered next.
Imagine, if you will, a long, dusty stretch of road in Prince Albert, aptly named Industrial Drive, on which sits a grey, one-story windowless building, home to the local Fabricland franchise.
On a spring day in May, a man walks into Fabricland and produces a business card identifying himself as Bill Sui from a company called VStar, which he says helps Chinese nationals immigrate to Canada. Bill has one heck of an offer for Fabricland’s owner, Barb Reid.
Bill tells Barb that he is looking for Saskatchewan business owners willing to write fake job offers (the fact he’s soliciting job offers that wouldn’t otherwise exist makes them just that) for Chinese immigrants who want to move to Canada. In other words, he’s looking for Saskatchewan business owners willing to commit fraud.
Bill tells Barb VStar will foot the bill for the employee for three months, then offers Barb $15,000 in cold, hard cash.
Barb is no dummy. She knows that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So, she called CBC Saskatchewan reporter Geoff Leo, and from there an undercover investigation ensued.
The CBC learned that Vancouver-based VStar is charging Chinese immigrants up to $200,000 in exchange for passage in to Canada. The front page of VStar’s website featured a big picture of the Saskatchewan Legislature, boasting the company’s alleged ability to guarantee immigration to our province through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP).
And guess what? There’s also connection between VStar and Brightenview.
And the GTH.
Are you even surprised at this point?
In a conversation with an undercover CBC reporter, VStar (remember, this is the so-called immigration company trying to give Saskatchewan businesspeople, like Barb from Fabricland, cash to commit fraud) tried to sell Brightenview’s plans at the GTH as “a program sponsored by the government of Saskatchewan”, where Chinese immigrants could set up shop for the low low price of $250,000 to $360,000 for a 500ish-square-foot unit.
Plus that hefty immigration fee, of course.
VStar also told the undercover reporter that some of their clients have already been approved for the GTH. In fact, VStar claimed they were actually in Saskatchewan for Brightenview’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the GTH.
“We’ve worked closely with [Brightenview],” said Saskatchewan’s Minister of the Economy, Jeremy Harrison, clutching a pair of giant scissors.
So really, why wouldn’t VStar promote Brightenview’s GTH project as “sponsored by the government of Saskatchewan”, when they’re attending ribbon cuttings with Ministers, and last fall Premier Wall himself was in China speaking at an event targeting potential Brightenview investors?
Now to be fair, even though she had just finished telling a CBC reporter that they do, VStar now vehemently denies charging Chinese immigrants $200,000 for a job in Canada.
And despite the fact that the business card Bill left with Barb at Fabricland says he works for VStar, and the fact that the CBC called VStar’s office and left a message for Sui, which he returned, VStar now denies that Bill Sui works there, or that he even exists.
Oh, and there’s this: the phone number on VStar’s website registration belongs to Brightenview’s vice-president of marketing. When asked, the CEO of Brightenview denied any connection between Brightenview and VStar.
Brightenview similarly denied any connection to that other sketchy company (discussed in my previous post) potentially committing immigration fraud.
Ten days after CBC Saskatchewan released their first story on VStar, they followed up with a report that federal and provincial officials have begun investigating this shitshow.
The Premier’s office insists that VStar has never submitted any applications for potential Chinese immigrants.
In the meantime VStar has scrubbed their website of any reference to Saskatchewan. And, even though the CBC has them on tape, VStar is now denying ever doing business in Saskatchewan.
At this point, I’m pretty sure if you asked VStar to find Saskatchewan on a map sitting right in front of them, they’d deny any of it exists – Saskatchewan or the map.
The Premier’s office is still stubbornly digging in on his government’s relationship with Brightenview. When Postmedia questioned what kind of due diligence was before jumping into bed with Brightenview, the government’s indignant response, in summary, was “we Googled”. They also helpfully sent reporters a picture of Brightenview’s “coming soon” sign at the GTH, including that rented-for-the-photo-op-backhoe in the background (recent reports from folks who have been out that way state the land is empty).
So, should the provincial government be concerned? F**k yes it should be. This is a dumpster fire.
Is it about time other media start looking intently at this story, phoning places like Prince Albert Fabricland to get the ball rolling, so more people are aware of this troubling story? Yep. Should the NDP have been on top of this a month ago, howling for an investigation? Yep.
To recap this nightmare:
- Brightenview was going to build a Chinese megamall in Dundurn. Because why wouldn’t you build a Chinese megamall in Dundurn? Makes perfect sense.
- To the surprise of precisely no one, Brightenview has not built a Chinese megamall in Dundurn.
- Brightenview is connected to a company being sued by wannabe Chinese immigrants to Saskatchewan who claim they’ve been scammed out of their life savings and had their lives destroyed.
- Brightenview is connected to two people once listed on Interpol because they’re wanted by the Chinese government for fraud.
- Brightenview is now also connected to a second company which appears to be running an Chinese immigration scam.
- Brightenview partnered with the Saskatchewan government a few weeks before 2016’s provincial election, providing the SaskParty with a conveniently-timed example to which they could frantically point as evidence that the GTH can make money.
- Now, instead of one sketchy-land-deal-headache at the GTH, the government has two.
- In order for Brightenview to build their latest Chinese megamall, this time at the GTH, the Saskatchewan government needs to approve the applications of hundreds of Chinese immigrants…
…what could POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Here’s the kicker – when it comes to immigration scandals and outright fraud involving Saskatchewan and the SINP program, this is all the tip of the iceberg.
You think human trafficking and warehousing immigrants can’t happen here?
Think again. It’s happening right under your nose. Some of you are driving right past it every day.
But who cares right? Because what’s the number one thing we looooooove to brag about in Saskatchewan?
You didn’t think they all came here from Alberta, did you? Or as it might turn out, even legally?
Oh Saskatchewan… what have we done?
For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert – all heat and no light. Well, technically I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Email me anytime at email@example.com
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