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Police not investigating B.C. official linked to Hastings Racecourse worker arrests

WATCH: (Aug. 22) Representatives for the foreign workers arrested at Hastings Racecourse on Monday say their only crime was trusting the official now under investigation for issuing licences. Sarah MacDonald reports.

Vancouver police and RCMP say they are not involved in an investigation into a B.C. gaming official who issued credentials to foreign workers at Hastings Racecourse.

That’s despite allegations of the official collecting hundreds of dollars from those workers for false licences, which drew the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Seven backstretch workers were arrested by CBSA agents on Monday in a raid that also saw more than a dozen other workers detained and questioned before being released.

READ MORE: Lawyer for Hastings Racecourse workers says they paid up to $1,000 for false licences

The province confirmed Thursday the arrests stemmed from an internal investigation by the province’s gaming policy and enforcement branch (GPEB) into one of its own investigators, who they believe facilitated racetrack licences without proper work authorization.

The lawyer who represented the seven workers at their mandatory review hearings on Wednesday said she was told the workers paid between $600 and $1,000 for the licences, believing they would also grant them legal work status in Canada.

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None of the allegations have been proven in court. The CBSA will not confirm whether the B.C. official is being investigated, or whether charges are being considered.

WATCH: (Aug. 21) New developments in arrests at Hastings Racecourse

New developments in arrests at Hastings Racecourse
New developments in arrests at Hastings Racecourse

On Friday, the CBSA made clear its investigation was focused on the workers who were employed at the racetrack without proper authorization — not the official who issued those licences.

“The CBSA conducts investigations into foreign nationals and permanent residents when available information suggests a person may be inadmissible to Canada,” the agency said in a statement.

“The CBSA investigates not only criminality, but persons who do not comply with terms and conditions imposed if they are students, foreign workers or visitors.”

READ MORE: B.C. official investigated for licences issued to workers arrested at Hastings Racecourse

When asked if its mandate could also include Canadian citizens, the CBSA said it was possible but would not elaborate further.

The Ministry of Attorney General later clarified Friday that the CBSA’s mandate does include offences under the immigration act “including misrepresentation, counselling misrepresentation, and aiding and abetting persons facilitating illegal activities related to immigration.”

Questions remain

CBSA said it was alerted to the improper work authorizations in June, after information was referred to them by GPEB.

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But the Ministry of Attorney General said Thursday it first received the complaint that launched the internal investigation at GPEB eight months earlier, in October 2018.

The ministry has confirmed the official “who is the subject of the CBSA investigation” does not have access to GPEB’s offices or government systems. The individual has not been named.

WATCH: (Aug. 20) CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse

CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse
CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse

When asked what the official is being investigated for, the CBSA repeatedly said “it would be inappropriate” to provide further details for an ongoing investigation.

“The CBSA is bound by the parameters of the Privacy Act and a specific individual’s file with the CBSA is protected by these parameters,” the agency said in each case.

READ MORE: CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse

“In investigative cases, information does not become public unless charges are laid, and only at that time.”

Vancouver police said it is not involved in the investigation and would not speculate on whether they would become involved.

B.C. RCMP referred all questions regarding the investigation to CBSA.

READ MORE: Man sentenced to 20 months in jail for role in B.C.’s largest immigration fraud case

The GPEB is responsible for issuing licences to racetrack workers, which is required under provincial law. It is also the provincial regulator for the entire gaming industry, including casinos and lotteries.

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All seven workers who were arrested, most of whom are from Mexico, have agreed to voluntarily leave the country and pay for their own flights back home.

They will have to wait at least a full year before attempting to re-enter Canada, at which time they will have to explain the CBSA enforcement against them.

—With files from John Hua