SEEKING to recover reputation and financial losses, Mumtaz Ladha of West Vancouver, who was completely exonerated by the courts after being charged with human trafficking and human smuggling, and her family, are suing the RCMP and the Director of Civil Forfeiture.
The civil claim filed in the BC Supreme Court Vancouver registry on Monday alleges that the RCMP conducted a negligent investigation resulting in a negligent and misleading report to Crown Counsel which led to criminal charges, according to a press release.
No statements of defence have been filed as yet. The allegations in the court document have not been proved.
On November 22, 2013, following a 22-day trial that created news around the globe, Ladha was acquitted of all charges by a BC Supreme Court judge who said the complainant’s evidence ‘was incredible and improbable’.
The judge further stated: “The complainant took advantage of Mrs. Ladha’s generosity and then took advantage of an opportunity she saw to remain in this country, showing a callous disregard for her benefactor.”
The Notice of Civil Claim details how information from Wikileaks shows the U.S. Government warned that Canada would receive a performance downgrade from tier 1 to 2 with respect to enforcement of human trafficking in persons laws as a result of the fact that Canada had not secured convictions in 2009.
The U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver monitored the RCMP investigation after learning an alleged human slavery case was under investigation and was assured that human trafficking charges were imminent.
The claim says the RCMP notified Passport Canada resulting in Ladha’s passport being revoked. As well, the chief RCMP investigator developed an inappropriate relationship with the complainant giving her questions in advance, coaching her prior to her recorded statements and failing to investigate inconsistent and incomplete statements.
Evidence at trial showed the complainant, then a 21-year-old Tanzanian woman, learned in June 2009 she could remain in Canada under a temporary resident permit (TRP) if she claimed she was a victim of human trafficking.
According to filed court documents, the RCMP failed to contact or interview individuals who would give exculpatory evidence, purposely omitted facts helpful to the defense and failed to recognize the complainant had a clear motive for lying to stay in Canada.
In an apparent response to pressure from the U.S. government, the RCMP sensationalized the laying of criminal charges during a May 17, 2011 news conference. At the RCMP news conference, Ladha and her family were demonized as exploiting the complainant by taking away her passport and forcing her into domestic servitude and slavery where she was starved, kept from contacting her family in Africa and forced to work anywhere from 18 to 22 hours a day, seven days a week with no compensation.
Court evidence showed Ladha and her family were highly regarded business people and philanthropists who had treated the complainant like a member of the family. The complainant was taken clothes shopping, to restaurants and theatres and to the homes of Mumtaz family friends. She was also given a cell phone and travel money and had been taken to a lawyer to obtain a live-in caregiver work permit and extension of her visitor visa. She stayed in the family home alone for up to two weeks at a time.
Also named in the suit is the Director of Civil Forfeiture who is alleged to have blindly relied on the RCMP investigation to file a negligent and malicious claim to the family home then worth an estimated $3 million by expanding the scope of the Civil Forfeiture Act in an attempt to meet monetary quota requirements.
The director filed a lis pendens against the property which froze the family’s main asset. This prevented them from disposing of their home or refinancing it in order to mount a defense to the criminal charges.
The director also wrongly claimed Ladha’s daughter Zahra faced criminal charges. Zahra Ladha, who has a doctoral degree and was then an instructor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, was fired by her pharmaceutical company employer after the incorrect information was released.
In seeking damages, lawyers for the Ladha family say in the statement of claim: “Both defendants have conducted themselves markedly outside of their professional standard of care and their negligence has caused irreparable damage to the Plaintiffs’ reputation and standing in their community, in addition to having caused significant loss to the Plaintiffs’ business interests.”