POLITICS

Bribery alleged by P.E.I. immigrant program workers

09/16/2011 12:35 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST

Three former provincial government workers held a news conference Friday morning to expose allegations of bribery and fraud within P.E.I.'s immigrant investor program.

Two of the women worked directly on immigrant files and said the rules set up for the immigrant investor section of the Provincial Nominee Program were regularly broken.

They claim senior bureaucrats in the Liberal government exerted pressure on them to approve immigrant applications that should never have been accepted.

But the women — all former government contract employees — offered no documentation to back up what they say.

Cora Plourd said she would decline an application one day and then the next day either the immigrant application was approved, or she says she was pressured into approving them.

Reporters asked Plourd specifically who pressured her. She wouldn't name names, but did point generally to the premier's office as the place where the pressure originated.

"It didn't just start this week and that is what the Ghiz government is trying to say — we're doing this for political reasons. It isn't," said Plourd, who has ties to the Progressive Conservative party.

"For three years we've been trying to get this forward and it's gone nowhere. The election renewed — if we come out now we would get this information out there."

Svetlana Tenetko said she was part of a team of PNP workers who went to Hong Kong to work through immigrant applications. She said she saw money exchange hands there, and she believes it was so Chinese applicants could bribe their way into P.E.I.

"I saw cash exchange in Charlottetown and in Hong Kong. I saw white envelopes. I saw cash covered with elastic," said Tenetko.

She said she has no proof to back up her allegations.

"I didn't take pictures, but I saw what I saw," she said. "I can swear on the Bible. What else do you want me to tell you?"

The two were joined at the news conference by Susan Holmes, who did not work on PNP, but did work for the Department of Innovation, which ran the immigrant investor program.

Together the women sent their allegations about PNP to the office of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. His office then turned it over to the RCMP and the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Tenetko and Plourd said they went to the RCMP in 2008 and 2009 with their allegations. Police won't confirm receiving complaints at that time.

But RCMP have confirmed they are reviewing these most recent claims and haven't decided whether to launch an investigation.

"Those allegations I can't get into at this point," said Sgt. Andrew Blackadar.

Campaigning in Clinton, Friday Robert Ghiz again denied the corrpution charges.

"With regards to my office interfering, absolutely not. I can categorically say that I had no involvement in any files, absolutely not," said Ghiz.

"You have to look at the timing that these ladies make these allegations two weeks before Islanders go to vote. They do it in a public manner. If you actually have complaints, usually you don't do it a public manner."