Self-preservation, not profit behind accused human smugglers actions: lawyer

Published on April 19, 2017

VANCOUVER — The lawyer for one of four men accused of smuggling dozens of Tamil migrants into Canada says her client was simply an equal player in helping the group get across the Pacific Ocean to reach Canada and claim asylum.

Fiona Begg told the B.C. Supreme Court trial in her closing arguments that the 76 migrants on board the MV Ocean Lady were working together and shared a common goal to get to Canada in October 2009.

Crown attorney Maggie Loda told the court on Tuesday the men were in control of the vessel and were out to make a profit on those who wanted asylum in Canada.

But Begg told the judge-alone trial that her client, Francis Anthonimuthu Appulonappa, didn't receive preferential treatment while aboard the dilapidated vessel and his living conditions were equal to the other migrants.

The Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for the men after ruling portions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act were unconstitutional and shouldn't automatically brand those who help migrants as people smugglers.

The prosecution argued that the high court's exemptions don't apply to the accused because they aided in a money-making scheme where agents charged the migrants thousands of dollars for passage.


The Canadian Press