A Belgian man accused of fraud totalling almost $10 million has been arrested in Montreal after Canadian officials, apparently unaware he was facing serious criminal charges, gave him a work permit.
David Bertiaux arrived in Canada a year ago, despite having been charged in Belgium in March 2017. Belgian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest after he failed to show up for a court hearing.
He was picked up by Canadian immigration authorities on Oct. 23 and is scheduled for deportation proceedings before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) next Tuesday.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada declined to respond to questions about why a foreign citizen facing serious criminal charges was granted a two-year work permit.
A Belgian prosecutor said Bertiaux was the subject of an arrest warrant issued on March 3, 2017 for alleged fraud involving at least 29 victims, some of them very elderly.
He is also accused of forgery, use of false certificates concerning the value of artwork, money laundering, conspiracy and abuse of corporate assets.
The incidents allegedly occurred between June 2012 and June 2015, said Daniel Marliere, a prosecutor in the economic and financial section in the city of Charleroi.
Belgian police declined to comment because the matter is before the courts. But according to Canadian records, Bertiaux is accused of defrauding his victims of millions of euros.
The IRB wrote in an Oct. 30 detention ruling obtained by Global News that he was implicated in the alleged purchase and sale of artworks at “prices that do not correspond to their value.”
A former employer has also put Bertiaux “on notice for having taken almost $30,000 without having rendered the services requested,” Canadian court records indicate.
Released on bail by the Belgian court, Bertiaux and his wife applied for Canadian work permits in July 2018. He allegedly did not disclose his legal troubles in his application.
“Without knowing the defendant’s background, he was granted a visa and a work permit because the defendant did not reveal his past to the Canadian authorities,” the Federal Court wrote.
Bertiaux left Belgium despite being prohibited from travelling without first notifying a judge. Through Interpol, Belgian authorities notified the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in May that Bertiaux was a fugitive.
He told Canadian authorities he had tried to contact the judge before he left but had not received a reply. He said he did not return to Belgium for his court appearance “for financial reasons,” the IRB wrote.
Bertiaux denied trying to hide from authorities and said he went to Quebec for “new opportunities,” according to the IRB.
“The situation had become difficult in Belgium as they had seized all or most of his property,” the board wrote.
He is currently detained.
Although the CBSA argued he was a flight risk, on Oct. 30, an IRB member ordered his release from custody on a $20,000 bond, but the decision was quickly appealed and overturned by the Federal Court.
“The Consulate General of Belgium in Montreal is aware of the situation of the Belgian citizen,” said Arnaud Gaspart, a spokesperson for Belgium’s foreign ministry.
“As a policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium does not communicate further details about personal files to the press.”