Traffic lines up at the Aldergrove border crossing. Aldergrove spiritual leader Joga Singh Badwal was given at 15-month conditional sentence for bringing people into Canada from the U.S. without presenting them for examination by Canadian border officials. File photo

Spiritual leader sentenced for bringing people over the border illegally

Judge said he was the mastermind behind operation that may have gone on for decades

A Supreme Court judge called a South Asian spiritual leader the ‘mind of the operation,’ who had a network of drivers on both sides of the Canada-US border to bring people across to Langley illegally for years.

On Nov. 17, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Jennifer Duncan sentenced Joga Singh Badwal to a 15-month conditional sentence for the lesser charge of failing to bring persons for examination upon entering Canada.

She had acquitted Badwal of the more serious charge of human smuggling.

The 68-year-old Aldergrove man is a spiritual leader in the South Asian community, living in a Gurdwara on Zero Avenue.

In December 2014, Badwal was formally charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, with one count of smuggling 10 or more persons and one count of failing to bring persons for examination upon entering Canada.

It is alleged that Badwal used his status as a spiritual leader within the South Asian community to assist other South Asians to gain entry into Canada illegally.

Crown sought less than two years jail, while Badwal’s lawyer asked for a conditional sentence.

It was a lengthy and complex investigation that involved undercover officers posing as people who were brought across the border.

On the first sting operations, undercover officers were taken over the border to the McDonald’s at Highway One and 264 Street.

“The aggravating factors in this case include the fact that Mr. Badwal was wily about border security, wire taps and the like because he had years of practice in avoiding detection,” wrote Justice Duncan in her sentencing report.

“I am not sentencing him for anything other than Count 2 of the indictment, but I cannot ignore the fact that Mr. Badwal told Sgt. D. he had been engaged in illegal border evasion activity for decades. That speaks to his moral blameworthiness.”

Badwal didn’t do it for the money, the courts learned.

He charged people money to come to Canada but apparently chose to give away his portion to charity and the rest went to the drivers.

“Badwal was the directing mind of the operation. He co-ordinated drivers, dealt with clients, took payment, distributed money and was the eyes and ears of the operation insofar as border security was concerned,” said the courts.

Badwal has lived at the Gurdwara near the border for years. When he was arrested, $13,000 was recovered in relation to the people getting over the border.

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During the trial, the Crown submitted that Badwal was a highly organized individual who had a network of drivers on both sides of the border to facilitate the surreptitious arrival into Canada of paying customers and the transfer of them to locations away from the border and away from detection.

However, the judge said that Badwal was remorseful and embarrassed by the media coverage of his actions.

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