British Columbia

Human smuggling attempt busted at Vancouver airport

A French citizen will appear in Richmond provincial court Tuesday to face charges of human smuggling.

A French citizen will appear in Richmond provincial court Tuesday to face charges of human smuggling.

According to court documents obtained by the CBC, Mikael Jim Prone claims to be a self-employed businessman living between France and Guangzhou, China.

He arrived at Vancouver airport last November on the same Air China flight as an Iranian brother and sister who made refugee claims on arrival. The pair travelled to Canada on Israeli passports which they discarded before disembarking.

A Canada Border Services Agency investigator claims the passports were found in Prone's backpack.

The CBSA obtained an order for the production of flight ticket information for all three from Air China in January. According to information sworn to obtain the order, Prone told officials he met the siblings at a market and allowed them to buy him a plane ticket after deciding to go into business together.

"When asked why he had their passports, Prone stated that they must have slipped into his back pack sometime during the trip," the information reads.

"Prone could offer no explanation as to why they put their Israeli passports in his carry-on luggage."

According to the documents, Prone was initially pulled in for extra questioning because he arrived in Vancouver with no plans or reservations.

"During this time, two undocumented individuals (a man and a woman), arrived at the primary inspection line and made a claim for refugee protection," the document states.

"Prone looked across the secondary examination at the two undocumented Iranian siblings, who were seated on one of the benches. (Border Services Officer) Dar asked Prone if he knew those people and Prone stated 'Yes, they are my friends.'"

Brother and sister used Israeli passports

The siblings travelled under Israeli passports assigned to Tomer Mor and Noa Schwartz. The CBSA later determined the pair were a 26-year-old man and his 30-year-old sister.

The woman allegedly told inspectors she and her brother travelled from Iran to China with an Iranian man who gave them the Israeli passports.

In China, they were introduced to a man who boarded the plane to Vancouver with them and took their passports from them once the flight was underway.

The court documents contain a transcript of an alleged conversation between a border services officer and Prone.

"I still don't understand - how did these passports end up in your bag?" the officer asked.

Prone allegedly ultimately replied: "I don't know, someone just put them there. This is problem, not good, right?"

Prone has been in custody since his arrest on November 27, 2011. He faces a total of five charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, including the organization of entry for individuals into Canada without a visa or passport.

The maximum punishment for a first offence is a $500,000 fine and 10 years in prison.

None of the allegations contained in the information sworn to obtain the production order have been proven in court.