Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan RCMP Charge Woman with Human Smuggling Relating to Refugees

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan RCMP Charge Woman with Human Smuggling Relating to Refugees

Article excerpt

RCMP charge woman with human smuggling

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REGINA - A Saskatchewan woman has been charged with human smuggling after RCMP intercepted a vehicle carrying nine refugee claimants who authorities believe crossed the border from the United States.

Mounties say a woman was stopped last Friday on the Canadian side of the border between the North Portal and Northgate crossings, the legal entry points into Saskatchewan from North Dakota.

Police say nine people from West Africa were in the vehicle.

"They were processed by the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and they've been released into Canada," RCMP Insp. Donovan Fisher said Wednesday. "They've made claims for refugee protection."

RCMP would not confirm the ages, gender or nationalities of the refugee claimants.

An investigation into organized human smuggling in southeastern Saskatchewan began last December after border officers "referred a returning male Canadian resident for further examination." The border services agency said there was evidence to suggest smugglers were bringing foreign nationals into Canada from the United States.

Last Friday, American border authorities identified a suspect in the investigation as he entered the U.S. They notified their Canadian counterparts, who in turn alerted the RCMP "that a smuggling attempt may be imminent."

The vehicle was stopped at 9 p.m. Friday night.

A home in Regina was searched the following day and RCMP said a significant amount of cash was found.

"A fair portion of this currency was foreign currency," said Fisher.

"At this time we have enlisted the services of our proceeds of crime experts to analyze the money, analyze the situation around which the money was found and any supporting documents that were included with that, including potentially looking at bank records."

Michelle Omoruyi, 43, is charged with human smuggling and conspiracy to commit human smuggling. She is to appear in court May 15 in Estevan, Sask.

Police also said the United States Border Patrol has arrested other people related to the same investigation, but no details have been released.

"They're conducting a parallel investigation on the south side of the border. …

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