The wealthy Vancouver-area woman accused of trafficking a young African single mother to Canada to be an unpaid housekeeper used "fraud, deception and coercion" to trick the woman and fool immigration officials, a Crown prosecutor said Friday.
Mumtaz Ladha, 60, is on trial for human trafficking and other immigration-related offences over allegations she illegally brought the woman into the country in August 2008 and forced her to work long hours without pay at Ladha's West Vancouver home.
The Crown's theory has been that Ladha lured the young woman, whose name is covered by a publication ban, to leave her native Tanzania with a promise of a job at a Vancouver-area hair salon, which didn't actually exist.
To do this, the Crown contends Ladha repeatedly lied to immigration officials in Tanzania and Canada, first to obtain the woman's initial travel visa and then to obtain a visa extension five months after the woman's arrival.
"There's a pattern of fraud, deception and coercion that occurs here," Crown lawyer Peter LaPrairie said in his final arguments on Friday.
"Mrs. Ladha used means of coercion, deception and fraud to convince [the woman] to come to Canada. She misrepresented the circumstances of the travel in the application for the visa. And she misrepresented the circumstances for the stay in Canada in the extension."
LaPrairie said the lies began in Tanzania, where the woman worked as a cleaner at a hair salon owned by Ladha in the capital city of Dar es Salaam. The woman had previously worked for Ladha as a housekeeper.
The woman testified she was initially reluctant to travel to Canada, but Ladha offered her a job at a salon in Vancouver making $200 a month — twice what she was earning in Tanzania.
All along, Ladha's plan was to use the woman as her personal maid, LaPrairie said.
The judge hearing the case agreed there were inaccuracies in the various immigration forms connected to the case, but she also questioned whether such errors meant Ladha was guilty.
"There appear to be some statements made on the visa applications which aren't easily explained as mistakes or carelessness. The question is, 'At one point do they become criminal?'," asked Judge Lauri Ann Fenlon, who is hearing the case without a jury.
A verdict is expected later this month.