British Columbia

Watts denies widespread corruption in Surrey

Surrey mayor Dianne Watts says there is not widespread corruption in the city's planning department, despite the assertions of a developer who says he paid a bribe.
Surrey, B.C.,'s mayor dismisses allegations there were more people involved in an alleged bribery scandal, the CBC's Alan Waterman reports 2:01

Surrey mayor Dianne Watts says there is not widespread corruption in the city's planning department, despite the assertions of a developer who says a bribe was demanded of him by a former employee.

Watts said Thursday she's confident that a forensic audit conducted after charges were laid against one former planner has helped close loopholes that might have made corruption in Surrey's planning department possible.

But developer Jack Saran, whose allegations led to the fraud charges against the former planner, Akonyu Akolo, is convinced there are further suspects.

"That is impossible to have one person," Saran told CBC News. "There has to be a lot of other people."

But Watts said Saran's suspicions are baseless.

"There's a difference between thinking and fact-based … evidence," Watts said Thursday.

However, she acknowledged that the criminal investigation is ongoing.

"If there's any evidence whatsoever that comes to light, that's occurring, again, we'll take every measure we can to ensure that that person or persons are prosecuted."

Three added to lawsuit

Three other unnamed individuals have been added to a lawsuit Surrey has filed against Akolo in the wake of the criminal charges.

Two of the people are developers and a third person is believed to have assisted Akolo in the alleged scheme.

Saran has told authorities he was told his townhouse development project would be fast-tracked through Surrey city hall if he paid a substantial bribe.

Saran said he believes there have to be many people involved — both bureaucrats and other developers — to make such a scheme work.

Margaret Akulia, the owner of Millennium Global Associated Services, says this invoice and her signature are fake. ((CBC))
Saran alleged he was handed an extra invoice for $31,500 under the name of Millennium Global Associated Services, apparently signed by company owner Margaret Akulia.

The money would speed his development application, Saran said he was told.

Akulia called CBC News after a story naming her was broadcast Thursday evening, proclaiming her innocence.

She said she does know Akolo, but the invoice was not on her letterhead and was faked.

Akulia said her letterhead has a logo on it and the one given to Saran does not.