Iranian accused of sanction-dodging seeks expedited Canadian citizenship

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A Toronto man accused by Canada’s intelligence service of helping Iran dodge international sanctions has filed a court case against the government for not granting him citizenship.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has alleged Alireza Onghaei took part in “foreign influenced activities … that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive.”

But Onghaei, 46, an Iranian citizen who owns a house in Vaughan, Ont., claimed in an application to the Federal Court that his quest to become a Canadian citizen had faced “unreasonable” delays.

In the case, filed in Montreal on Nov. 16, Onghaei asked the court to order the government “to render a decision with regards to his citizenship application.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada would not comment.

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Onghaei’s lawyer also declined to comment. But reached by phone, Onghaei called the allegations against him “f—king bulls—t.”

He denied admitting to CSIS he had moved millions into Canada for the Iranian regime, and accused the Canadian government of fabricating a case against him to show it was cracking down against Iran.

The government did so to “try to get like more votes from the immigrants,” he said. He said the fact he had initiated the case against the government showed he was innocent.

“It’s logic,” he said.

Alireza Onghaei has citizenship in Iran and St.-Kitts and Nevis, and is seeking Canadian citizenship. Global News

This is the fifth court case Onghaei has filed against Canada since he arrived in the country as an investor immigrant in 2008 and opened a series of currency exchange businesses in Ontario and B.C.

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Already a citizen of both Iran and the Caribbean island nation Saint Kitts and Nevis, he was refused Canadian citizenship in 2018 but appealed.

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The CSIS security screening branch interviewed Onghaei in 2019 and wrote in its report that he had admitted to “assisting the government of Iran in the clandestine wiring of monies into Canada.”

According to the report, Onghaei “admitted to having owned a private exchange company that would transfer funds from Bank Saderat and other Iranian financial actors into Canada.”

Bank Saderat is an Iranian state bank sanctioned by Canada and used to “channel funds to terrorist organizations,” CSIS wrote in the report, which was filed in court.

CSIS estimated he had moved “in the millions.”

“For additional clarity, Mr. Onghaei stated that he knows the process of circumventing economic sanctions is clearly illegal. Yet, Mr. Onghaei admitted to having conducted such activities for at least three years,” CSIS wrote.

“On a separate note, Mr. Onghaei stated that if he were to profit from such a relationship, he would ‘gladly’ work for a foreign intelligence service, notably one from Iran,” according to the report.

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Onghaei has not been charged over the allegations.

“They have nothing, man,” he said.

He said CSIS would not allow him to record his two-day security screening interview “because they knew they want to lie to the public, they knew they want to report by the bulls—t.”

“Never I did admit, never I did work with the Iranian f—king government.”

He said the government had delayed his citizenship application for nine years. “I have a right to file a court case against them again, that’s all.”

Page of CSIS security screening report on Alireza Onghaei. Federal Court

An international organization that has been attempting to identify members and associates of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Canada and the United States said more than half of those uncovered to date had already acquired citizenship.

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“The current legal regime in Canada does not address these sorts of cases at all, focusing on a limited number of sanctions and targeted individuals without status in Canada (preventing them from entry or preventing their citizenship),” said Ram Joubin.

“It does not address the security risk that such individuals pose either, due to their past association with the dictatorship in Iran and its various sub-branches,” said Joubin, a B.C. lawyer involved in the group Stop IRGC.

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