The Conservative government has paid the $3,500 fine a Mexican judge imposed on Brenda Martin to expedite her transfer to a Canadian prison, MP Jason Kenney said Friday.
Kenney, the Conservative government's secretary of state for multiculturalism, also held an hour-long meeting with Martin on Friday at Puente Grande women's prison near Guadalajara to discuss arrangements for her transfer.
Kenney said he explained to her the process of a prisoner transfer and reassured Martin that things are moving quickly in her case, the CBC's Paul Hunter reported from outside the prison.
He said he expected the transfer "in short order," but would not give further details before he and Conservative MP Rick Norlock left for a meeting with Mexican officials.
Martin, from Trenton, Ont., had been working in Mexico and was found guilty on Tuesday of money laundering. She was sentenced to five years in prison in Mexico without parole, as well as the fine of 35,800 pesos, or around $3,500.
Kenney said the fine was paid through a special fund the Foreign Affairs Department has for distressed Canadians abroad.
"Technically, it's on a loan basis, so Ms. Martin would be expected in due course to repay Foreign Affairs," he said.
Met Martin's friend as well
Kenney also spoke briefly with Debra Tieleman, Martin's friend and supporter, who has been heavily critical of the federal government's role in securing Martin's release. Tieleman said she was "ecstatic" after the brief conversation with the Tory MP and planned to return to Canada immediately.
Martin has been in jail in Mexico since 2006. Her family and friends say the imprisonment has taken a toll on her, leaving her depressed, heavily sedated and on 24-hour suicide watch at the prison.
Mexican and Canadian officials have indicated a transfer agreement could be completed in a matter of days, the CBC’s Hunter said.
If this were to occur, Martin would be taken to an international airport and handed over to Canadian correctional services officers who would then escort her home.
If she returns to Canada, she would be viewed as someone who has committed a similar crime in Canada. But the amount of time she has already served in Mexico would be counted against her sentence and make her eligible for parole.
In Canada, prisoners are generally eligible for parole once they have served one-third of their sentence.
"She would still be a prisoner," Hunter said. "But once she’s in Canada …the process to get her out of jail would happen very quickly."
Liberal blasts MP trip
Liberal MP McTeague called the visit to Mexico by Norlock and Kenney a photo opportunity, accusing the government of dragging its feet and delaying Martin's transfer.
McTeague said Martin spoke Thursday with Mexican officials, who told her they were prepared to release her to Canadian authorities.
"What are they doing there? They don't need to be there personally to negotiate what … the embassy's already been instructed to do," he said. "It doesn't require them, either, to be there to take her home, much as it would be nice to have her arm-in-arm with them."
Martin, 51, was accused of participating in a $60-million internet fraud scheme run by Canadian Alyn Waage, who was convicted of fraud in 2006 and is serving a 10-year term in a U.S. prison.
Mexican investigators said Martin, who worked as Waage's chef in Puerto Vallarta for 10 months, accepted a severance package knowing the money came from the scam.
But Martin maintained her innocence, saying she knew nothing of Waage's schemes. Waage corroborated her story in testimony.