By Korie Marshall

In late February, the Goat received emails containing confidential documents from an unnamed source, using GITC contacts. We weren’t the only ones to receive them. GITC quickly released statements saying their systems had been hacked, and explaining how some of the allegations were misconstrued. GITC’s statements were sent to approximately 300 email addresses, including a number of government officials in Valemount and throughout the province.
We reached Amal Asfour, GITC’s CEO and Director, by phone to talk about some of the questions raised by the allegations.

Computer hacking?

We asked Asfour if she knew who had hacked GITC’s computer system, and why.

“Of course I know who it was, but I don’t have strong evidence against the competitor,” said Asfour. “Once I have it, I will of course post it.” She says it was a former employee who was fired for dishonesty, and who was also working for a competitor. She says the person is in the immigration business, and is trying to steal her customers. She says she thought it was just through the advertising she had done in the Middle East, but now believes it was someone working within her company, someone who had access to the documents and the email contacts.

We asked if that was why she wanted the exclusivity agreement with Valemount. To answer, Asfour first explained one of the issues she sees with the current Provincial Nominee Program is that people often come for a short period, and if there is nothing to keep them here, they will move on. She says she wants to build up a long term relationship between Valemount and the investors’ families.

“We have to create awareness, but in order for me to do that, it is going to cost me a lot of money for the media campaign, so it is not fair if a competitor comes to Valemount who did not know Valemount before I started the campaign. I wanted to make sure I got exclusivity first, and then I won’t be sorry for the money I spent.”

Why Valemount?

Asfour also explained a bit about the people she wants to attract to Valemount.

“The people who are coming from the Middle East have very high standards. I am not bringing people who are workers who want to start their lives; no. I a bringing investors who have high living standards, living in luxurious homes, luxurious lives; they have enough money and want to enjoy their lives. If they come to a small place like Valemount, there should be something to attract them. Don’t tell me just nature. Nature is good for visitors, not for investors. But there is nothing in Valemount, so we have to build up something to attract those investors.”

She also explained why she chose Valemount. “I came to Valemount, not because it is special in one way or another, but because there is no competition in Valemount. I don’t need to compete.”

Confusion about the age of the company

An email from GITC’s official email says that GITC Investments and Trading Canada Inc. is not a one-year-old corporation. “The history of GITC goes back to 1997, when its director Amal Asfour took it upon herself to provide a secure and safe second homeland to herself, children and all families who were looking for stability and an honorable life,” the statement continues. Asfour’s profile on LinkedIn says that GITC Investments and Trading Canada Inc. has generated tremendous value for foreign investors for over 16 years.

Mayor Andru McCracken confirmed that his own as well as the Village’s investigations led him to believe the company is relatively new. He admits they did not find evidence of any completed projects in Canada, or any immigrants successfully brought to Canada, but he doesn’t see that as a problem. He says no one with money and experience, looking at projects on this scale, ever comes to Valemount. “So is GITC new? Yes. And are we using that against them? Absolutely, because when people are new, they don’t know how hard things are, and we think we can work with them to help make this happen in some fashion.”

“I’ve never said that we here since 1997,” Asfour told the Goat in an email. “I said that our experience goes back to 1997.” She says a year ago, she didn’t even have an office in Canada, and she was very clear with everyone that she was coming from the Middle East, running her business from there and going to a number of provinces. She says she is a Canadian citizen, and has been back and forth between Canada and the Middle East since 1994.

“In the immigration business, under the federal and provincial programs, I have experience since 1997.” Asfour confirmed GITC was started in 2013.

The Ontario Securities Commission

One of the leaked documents is a letter from the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), asking for detailed information about GITC, its business practices and client information.

“The OSC wants to make sure the investors I am bringing have enough money to support their families while they are here,” Asfour says. “They want to make sure they have more than the $200,000, and they also said we have to be licensed by the Securities Department, which I didn’t know about.”

Asfour says she and her consultants have numerous licenses, and she did not think they were selling or trading securities, but the OSC explained that by bringing investors where each partner has a share, that falls under the laws of the securities department. She explained the company is trying to get their license, but the OSC is carefully checking their investors to ensure they have at least another $400,000 in cash and assets, about the $200,000 the need to invest. If any of the investors don’t have enough, Asfour says they will have to return that investor’s money.

“The letter has been interpreted in a very misleading way,” Asfour says of the email hacker’s statements. “She (the person who leaked the documents) projected it in a way that we are against the law or under investigation.”

The Goat asked if the company will have to be licensed for securities in BC as well, since it is opening businesses in BC using investors.

“They said since we are located in Ontario, Mississauga, it should be done there, under the Ontario Securities Commission. We have to see first what the requirements are, and we will be following their instruction, and for BC we have to contact our lawyer and start with the registration if needed. But the investments are done from Ontario and we are processing the files. In BC, we are not processing any files.”

The Immigration Consultant

When the Goat asked Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, if the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act would affect the Provincial Nominee Program, she said professional brokers and realtors can play an important role in facilitating the purchase of a business by an immigrant investor.

Bond says prospective business immigrants must complete their own due diligence in assessing a business opportunity. She says PNP applicants are advised to retain full control of their capital at all times, and to engage local professionals to assist them in their business establishment processes.

Bond said anyone providing immigration advice must be authorized and be a member in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council. The Regulatory Council does not license companies, but a company must have at least one person – a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant – If they are offering immigration services.

One of the leaked documents is a letter from a former employee, asking that Asfour desist in using her name and license number in association with GITC. Asfour explained in her responses that the former employee resigned from GITC when the company hired another immigration consultant.

Asfour’s email also stated she has helped over 500 families immigrate to Canada.

“Yes, I’ve been running the business from the Middle East and I was co-operating with a financial firm. I’ve been their agent in that area, bringing them investors. I was the first one that introduced the federal program to the Middle East. No one at that time knew about the investor program, just the skilled workers or the temporary foreign workers program.”

Asfour says it took her a lot of money and time to introduce that program. Then after 2011, when the program was put on hold, she started working under the provincial programs, and she started visiting provinces and talking to mayors and governments, “to come up with something different to bring investors to the area and speed up the processing time for filing.”

Where does the money come from?

When asked where the money came from for GITC’s planned projects, Asfour said some investors have already paid down payments, and she has filed some immigration applications already to the government. “We have investors who will be investing in Valemount; we’ve filed some of their applications already to the PNP.” She explained that is where the money for starting these projects in Valemount is coming from.

“Of course, it’s the money from the investors.”

Asfour says some applications were filed as long as seven or eight months ago, and she hopes some of the investors will be coming to Valemount by the end of 2014.