As some of the people he’s accused of defrauding faced potential deportation from Canada in March, an Indian education agent was living under the radar in British Columbia, the Star has learned.
Brijesh Mishra was sharing a rental house with five other people in Surrey, B.C., as authorities in India and in Canada tried to hunt him down over his alleged role in a scam involving fake Canadian college admission letters.
Even after his visitor visa had been cancelled for alleged “ghost-consulting,” Mishra managed to enter this country last October, crossing the U.S. border without being detected.
It was while trying to cross the U.S. border yet again this month that Mishra was finally arrested. Two days later, he found himself pleading for his release, and offering to fly himself home.
“I have a card from India, the credit card and debit card from which I was supporting myself,” he told an immigration tribunal, as he argued for his release.
“If I need more money, my wife send it to me with my cards. That is the thing I use,” said the father of a two-and-a-half-year-old in explaining how he had supported himself since first entering this country on Oct. 17 from south of the border without a visa.
A group of international students, said to be in the hundreds, have been flagged for possible deportation, accused of misrepresentation in their study permit applications.
They say they were unaware the college admission letters given to them were doctored, and say they only became aware after they had finished their courses and applied for postgraduate work permits, only to be flagged by border officials. Some cases were flagged during the students’ permanent residence application process.
Mishra has now been charged for offering immigration advice without a licence and with counselling a person to directly or indirectly misrepresent or withhold information from authorities
According to his detention review hearing, Mishra was issued a visa in 2019 but it was cancelled by the Canadian mission in Delhi “due to possible involvement in fraudulent activities involving ghost consultants,” before an alert was put out on him in February 2021.
Only licensed lawyers and consultants registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants can legally offer immigration advice and services at a fee. Those who don’t have those qualifications are called “ghost consultants.”
Mishra was able to enter Canada at the Douglas port of entry at the Washington state border in October. It is unclear why Mishra had been in the U.S. CBSA declined to comment on how Mishra was able to enter Canada without a valid visa, citing the ongoing investigation involving him.
Based on his previous visa application records, authorities emailed him twice after had been in Canada, informing him of his “inadmissibility due to organized criminality” but did not receive a reply.
Border officials began a search for Mishra on April 27 and visited an address in Surrey. After a futile effort to locate him, Canada Border Services Agency issued a warrant for his arrest on May 4.
He was arrested on June 14 when he tried to re-enter Canada via the U.S. land border.
At his detention review two days later, the government alleged Mishra has been involved in “wide-scale immigration fraud” in relation to his roles with Easy Way Immigration and Education and Migration Services Australia.
It said his two co-directors of the company have been arrested and denied bail in India, and argued against Mishra’s release for fear he would not appear for his admissibility hearing or removal.
“He has demonstrated the ability to be quite mobile within Canada as well as to remain undetected by immigration authorities who were actively looking for him,” said Margaret Neville, counsel for the government.
“He has been mobile even throughout where he was staying in the Lower Mainland and … it would be very easy for Mr. Mishra to go underground and remain undetected again.”
Neville accused Mishra of not being forthcoming with CBSA about his arrest history in India when he was intercepted this month and asked about a police investigation in India into a company he was involved in between 2010 and 2013. He initially denied there was a police investigation.
“Have you ever had — like, you never had any other court matter?” the border agent asked.
“No,” Mishra replied.
He also initially denied he knew the lawyer who was supposed to have represented him on that matter, before admitting it was his wife who hired the lawyer and indicating he was aware of the “ongoing issues” in India and the allegations against him.
“Do you read the news at all?” the CBSA officer asked.
“TikTok sometimes. Student deportation in the news, I was never involved,” Mishra responded without being prompted. “This is a fake accusation. It’s fake news.”
In pleading for the man’s release, Mishra’s lawyer said there’s no court record before the tribunal to support the May 2013 arrest of his client. The lawyer said Mishra could not have been in India then because he was working in Australia as shown in the entry and exit stamps in his passports.
Regarding the allegations of Mishra’s involvement in organized criminal activity, his lawyer said the government’s only evidence came from a news report, where it was suggested the man was wanted by local police relating to charges involving several different crimes.
“He is being charged does not mean that Mr. Mishra has been involved in criminal activity himself, that he could have been — all his conduct could have been properly issuing documents, arranging papers for applications with no misrepresentation at all,” the tribunal was told.
“The activity could have been carried out solely by the individual who has already been arrested or the other person that the Indian authorities are purportedly seeking related to this alleged criminality.”
Mishra said he had not seen his young child in India since he came to Canada in October and that their only communication had been through What’sApp video calls, which are not allowed in the detention centre.
He also told the tribunal he would like to be removed from Canada as soon as possible and asked if he could just buy his own flight to leave the country.
After assessing the evidence and submissions, the tribunal upheld Mishra’s detention until the next review on June 23, the same day when he was charged.
Two weeks ago, the group of Indian international students were granted reprieve by Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, who agreed to stop their pending deportations until a task force investigates each case to determine if they were innocent or complicit in gaming Canada’s immigration system.