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B.C. lawyer sentenced to 22 months for forging documents including police reports, doctors' notes

FILE - A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) patch is seen on an officer in Calgary, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS) FILE - A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) patch is seen on an officer in Calgary, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A B.C. lawyer has been sentenced to 22 months in jail after pleading guilty to forging documents that he submitted to Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board over a period of nearly 10 years.

Balraj Singh “Roger” Bhatti was sentenced in May of this year, but the judge's decision was posted online this week. In total, he pleaded guilty to 17 counts: three criminal counts of forgery, six criminal counts of uttering forged documents and eight counts of misrepresentation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Acts.

The offences date back to 2005, the court heard, with most occurring between 2009 and 2014.

The criminal counts all have to do with forging medical documents in order to get hearings postponed. The violations of the IRPA relate to forging medical and police reports "in concert" with a Hungarian interpreter in order to make false claims on applications for refugee status, the court documents say.

The Canada Border Services Agency began an investigation into Bhatti and the interpreter, Sofiane Dahak, in 2012. The criminal proceedings began in September of 2020, at which point charges were laid and Bhatti was suspended from practising law. Crown counsel asked the court to sentence Bhatti to three years in jail and fine him $100,000. Bhatti's defence lawyers asked for a conditional sentence order with strict conditions.


Bhatti, Justice Mark Jetté wrote in his decision, forged these notes on the letterhead of two different doctors.

In several cases, Bhatti submitted notes outlining medical issues that would prevent his clients from attending their scheduled hearings.

In one instance, he said the client had been admitted to hospital following a cardiac event, recommending adjournment on the grounds that the client was advised to "not exert himself, or subject himself to any undue stress for at least the next couple of weeks," the court heard.

In another, Bhatti's forged note said the client's hearing aid was broken, urging an adjournment until a replacement could be obtained. In the third case, the note claimed a client was suffering with kidney stones and would require time to allow them to pass.

All three hearings were adjourned, with the "strength" of the note being a key factor, the judge noted.

When interviewed by the CBSA, both of the doctors "advised that they had not met any of these individuals and had not prepared these documents," the decision says.

In other instances, Bhatti forged letters saying he himself was experiencing health issues that prevented him from attending the scheduled dates. Those hearings were also successfully postponed.

In some of these cases, Bhatti used the letterhead of his actual family doctor, who "told investigators that she had not met with Mr. Bhatti on the dates indicated in those letters, and had not prepared or signed them," according to the judge's decision.

For all of this, Bhatti was sentenced to two months in jail, to be served concurrently.

"Although different client files and hearings were implicated in some of these counts, it is my view that the conduct underlying all of these offences was part of a linked series of acts within a single endeavour," Jetté wrote.

"The single endeavour was Mr. Bhatti’s desire to obtain adjournments of scheduled hearings, because he was, in fact, feeling unwell, because he was overworked and unprepared, or both."


The eight counts of misrepresentation all stemmed from refugee claims made by Hungarian nationals who identified themselves as Roma and were seeking refugee status due to persecution based on their ethnicity.

In all of these cases, the judge notes, Bhatti did not act alone. The defence tried to argue that Bhatti played a "subservient role" and was just a "cog in the machine" in these cases, with Dahak acting as "the main organizer and directing mind of a human smuggling operation aimed at assisting Hungarian nationals to advance false refugee claims in this country."

The forged documents in these cases included a death certificate to support one client's claim that their brother was murdered. In another case, a police report was forged detailing an attack that never took place in which an anti-Roma slur was used. A fake medical report was also produced to back up claims that this attack resulted in an injury requiring stitches.

"The evidence supports a finding that Mr. Bhatti was intimately involved in creating the content for the false reports," Jetté wrote.

In all, the court heard that Bhatti provided forged documents in five cases. Some of the claims were successful and some were not, but in all of them, Bhatti used the information from the forged documents to plead his clients' cases and deceive the board.

"Mr. Bhatti submitted Hungarian police reports and/or medical records which he knew to be false, with the intention of inducing the IRB to make a finding in favour of his clients," Jetté wrote.

For each of the eight counts of misrepresentation, Bhatti was sentenced to four months in jail – some to be served concurrently and others consecutively.

In rejecting the defence's submission that Bhatti's sentence could be serviced in the community with strict conditions, the judge stressed several factors.

"The seriousness of these offences, the fact that Mr. Bhatti was acting in his capacity as a lawyer throughout, the impact Mr. Bhatti’s conduct has had on the integrity of the convention refugee system in this county, and Mr. Bhatti’s high degree of moral blameworthiness call for a sentence of institutional jail," Jetté wrote. Top Stories

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