Facial recognition ‘confirmed’ Ajax developer was wanted crime boss, but CBSA couldn’t prove it

Click to play video: 'New documents: facial recognition confirmed Ont. developer was wanted crime boss, but CBSA couldn’t prove it'
New documents: facial recognition confirmed Ont. developer was wanted crime boss, but CBSA couldn’t prove it
WATCH: New documents: facial recognition confirmed Ont. developer was wanted crime boss, but CBSA couldn't prove it – Dec 18, 2019

Canadian immigration officers alleged in 2015 that an Ajax, Ont., developer had entered the country using a false identity and was actually a crime leader wanted in Bangladesh, according to documents obtained by Global News.

But despite writing in a report that they had “confirmed, through facial recognition” that Md. Tarekh Rana was a fugitive, the officers at the Toronto immigration enforcement centre did not proceed with a case against him.

The matter was eventually dropped after Rana refuted the allegations and the officers, unable to corroborate he was the wanted man, decided there were insufficient grounds to take enforcement action, the documents indicate.

Rana was subsequently allowed to enter Canada repeatedly to run his property development business east of Toronto. He was also photographed alongside a gallery of Canadian politicians — some of whom wrote letters supporting him.

Documents detailing Rana’s immigration history were obtained from a confidential source after Global News reported the similarities between the Ajax businessman and crime leader Khandekar Tanvir Islam “Joy,” who is wanted for multiple murders.

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READ MORE: Tarekh Rana is an acclaimed Ajax businessman. Is he also a fugitive crime boss?

Rana has declined to be interviewed.

But in emails, he told Global News he may have been the victim of identity theft, and he and his lawyer said he had been cleared by the RCMP.

The documents show that two years after Rana founded his business in Ajax in 2013, Canadian immigration officers began the process of reporting him for allegedly misrepresenting his identity, which could have resulted in his deportation.

“He acquired his visa without disclosing his true identity of Tanveer Islam Khandakar, who is one of the Bangladesh Police’s most wanted criminals,” the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) wrote.

“Tarekh Rana has been confirmed, through facial recognition, as being one and the same as Tanveer Islam Khandakar.”

Click to play video: 'Ajax property entrepreneur Tarekh Rana haunted by Bangladesh fugitive crime boss doppelganger'
Ajax property entrepreneur Tarekh Rana haunted by Bangladesh fugitive crime boss doppelganger

A leader of the Seven Star crime group, Khandakar, who used the nickname Joy, is listed on the Interpol website as wanted for murder and possession of explosives. He is also on the Bangladesh Police most wanted list.

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Shown the government report alleging Joy was posing as Rana, a CBSA spokesperson declined to respond to it directly and said the department did not comment on cases due to privacy restrictions.

The owner of SJ71 Ltd., Rana nurtured close ties with the Town of Ajax and was photographed with MPs, MPPs and mayors after arriving in Canada in 2011, saying he was an Indian businessman with ambitious investment plans.

Although he closely matches the profile of a suspect arrested in Kolkata, India in 2007 based on information from co-conspirators, he denies he is the wanted man or that he has ever been arrested in Kolkata or anywhere else.

Global News emailed Rana a copy of the government report alleging he is Joy and had used a false identity to obtain his Canadian visa. He did not deny the document’s authenticity and named a person he speculated may have provided it.

READ MORE: Ajax, Ont. developer with council ties believed to be out of Canada amid questions about identity

Rana, 52, said he had documentation proving he was not the wanted crime figure but declined to provide it to Global News. He said Joy does not look like him and is five years younger and several inches shorter.

He said Joy was born in 1972 and was five feet six inches tall. According to the Interpol wanted notice, Joy is 52 and stands about six feet tall. Rana said his own height was five feet 10 inches before he underwent leg-shortening surgeries.

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Rana said he had obtained a clean criminal records check from the Indian police, had visited the country as recently as last month and that the RCMP and immigration authorities had cleared him for a work permit, which he received a year ago.

His fingerprints “could not be associated to any immigration related file or existing criminal record,” according to an RCMP letter he showed immigration officials in 2017, his file indicates.

The RCMP has declined to comment on the case.

Md. Tarekh Rana (left) with Liberal MP Mark Holland at the office of Ajax development firm SJ71 Ltd.
Md. Tarekh Rana (left) with Liberal MP Mark Holland at the office of Ajax development firm SJ71 Ltd. Facebook/SJ71
The “RCMP with Interpol have done investigation on me on more then [sic] 10 countries,” Rana said in an email. “MP Mark Holland visited my head office personally & informed that investigation is completed & immigration issued me work permit.”

Holland is the Liberal MP for Ajax. His spokesperson denied Rana’s version of events. “No, MP Mark Holland never made a personal visit to inform Mr. Rana that his work permit had been issued,” Michael Radoslav said.

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He said Holland’s involvement was limited to inquiring about the status of Rana’s work permit application and writing a letter of support, both standard services for constituents.

“Tarekh Rana was a local business owner in Ajax at the time seeking to expand his operations to help create jobs and boost the local economy,” said Radoslav, adding the MP’s office was unaware of his background.

READ MORE: Canada gave work permit to Belgian wanted in $10M art fraud, money laundering case

Former CBSA officer Kelly Sundberg, an associate professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, said immigration officers feel pressured when MPs, MPPs or mayors get involved in their cases.

He said when those under investigation hand over support letters from politicians, officers know they will be going against the wishes of elected officials if they proceed with enforcement action.

“It just makes it really difficult for the immigration officer to do their job,” said Sundberg, who said guidelines were needed to spell out when it was appropriate for politicians to intercede.

“It is an interference.”

MD Tarekh Rana (left) with Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier. (SJ71/Facebook)

Former Ajax-Pickering MPP Joe Dickson and the economic development managers of Ajax and Whitby also wrote letters, according to documents obtained by Global News.

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The Town of Ajax’s letter said Rana had created “over 20 jobs” and was expected to add more than $1.1 million in taxes and wages to the local economy. The letter was part of his immigration file.

“These are common requests and are typically used by investors to show potential tenants, investors, and/or lenders that, should their developments move forward, the town will provide services in support of investment and job creation,” said Ajax spokesperson Christie McLardie.

Holland’s Oct. 17, 2016 letter was written on House of Commons stationery and addressed “Dear Immigration Officer.” It described Rana’s “plans for investments to stimulate growth.”

They included a “banquet hall, high-end Indian restaurant, rental units, food court, convention hall and boutique hotel,” Holland wrote. “Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated and I hope that Mr. Rana can get the work permit so that he is able to accomplish all the great things he has planned out.”

With the exception of a business centre called G Centre, none of those plans have yet materialized. His company website is offline, and his business appears to be in financial trouble.

A law firm has posted letters on the doors of Rana’s Ajax office saying the company’s lease has been terminated and the locks have been changed for alleged failure to pay rent totalling more than $21,000.

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Another letter sent from creditors alleges he is behind on his mortgage payments and tells him to pay $2.1 million by Oct. 11. Rana confirmed in an email he owes about $7 million but claimed he has “close to $26 million” in assets.

“Businesses go trough [sic] stages. Within next two weeks two million dollar will be paid to my trades, Contractors & creditors with late fees, penalties & compensation, Inshallah,” he wrote on Dec. 8.

“Despite so many time immigration have harassed me, I did not run away because I am not the criminal you are looking for. Canada is not the only country but I look forward to become Citizen of Canada one day, Inshallah.”

A photo Md. Tarekh Rana took of himself while abroad in September 2019.

Rana has been trying to resettle in Canada since 2008 when he applied from India as a business immigrant. He first arrived in 2011 on a one-year visitor visa issued in Malaysia. In 2012, he was granted a 10-year visa issued in Singapore.

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Although his immigration records indicate he was visiting Canada to see a friend, he used the visa to launch his property development company in Ajax in 2013. But his identity came into question after he flew into Toronto in July 2015.

“Tarekh Rana induced an error in the administration of the IRPA [Immigration and Refugee Protection Act], namely that he applied for and received, a multiple entry visa without disclosing his true identity and its associated criminality in Bangladesh,” officers wrote.

Since then, Rana has come and gone from Canada multiple times, won civic awards, was a 2018 Ajax Entrepreneur of the Year, donated to political campaigns and appeared in photos with politicians as senior as Ahmed Hussen when he was the minister of immigration.

Before Rana came to Canada, a man closely matching his profile was arrested in Kolkata in May 2007. At the time, police accused the suspect of being the wanted crime figure Joy and living in India under a false identity.

The suspect identified himself in an Indian court as Md. Tarekh Rana. As proof of his identity, he filed copies of the Ajax businessman’s Indian passport and other records.

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Rana said he did not know why his passport was in the court file. He said one of his factories was robbed in September 2006 and he had “lost lots of documents” and speculated Joy used them to steal his identity.

The accountant Rana said had filed a police report about the robbery did not respond to emails. Three Indian lawyers who represented the man who was arrested in 2007 did not respond to requests for comment about Rana’s version of events.

Local news reporting at the time of the arrest indicated the man who was apprehended was using the alias Rana and operated a clothing store in the Rajarhat district. Rana’s former business, Gaus Fashions, was in Rajarhat.

The press accounts also said the arrested man was in his 40s, owned “flats” in Malaysia and had undergone surgery on both legs that January. Rana would have been 40 at the time, owns condos in Malaysia and underwent surgery on both legs that January.

Interpol notice for Tanvir Islam “Joy” Khandekar, wanted by Bangladesh Police for murder. Interpol

Bangladesh police have been searching for Joy since 2008 when he was apparently released from custody in India. He was reported by South Asian news agencies to have gone to Canada, but he has never been caught.

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“He’s where you have heard,” his uncle Aiyub said when asked if Joy was in Canada or Malaysia. He said the family was not in touch with the fugitive and had disowned him.

“Whenever the CBSA has new substantiated information indicating that an offence may have been committed, it will conduct a new and thorough investigation,” said CBSA spokesperson Jacqueline Callin.

She said the CBSA did not publicly disclose details of its investigations.

“Several factors are used in determining admissibility into Canada, including: criminality, misrepresentation, health or financial reasons.”

Conservative public safety critic Glen Motz said it was “possible in haste things can get missed” when government security agencies lacked adequate resources to screen those seeking to come to Canada.

“It certainly raises a number of concerns about who actually is entering our country and are there sufficient resources in place to make sure that … serious violent offenders from other countries are not using Canada as a place of refuge.”

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