TORONTO - A Pakistani man being investigated as a possible member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell was ordered deported yesterday after admitting he obtained his Canadian student visa through misrepresentation.
Fahim Kayani, 28, whose apartment was adorned with airplane schematics and pictures of guns, became the first of 21 suspects ordered out of Canada as a result of a counter-terrorism probe called Project Thread. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Mr. Kayani agreed he had submitted fake documents to the Immigration department claiming he was a student of the Ottawa Business College, and said he was eager to leave Canada.
"I just need deportation as soon as possible," he said.
But at the brief immigration hearing in Toronto that decided his fate, no mention was made of the national security concerns that have brought international attention to the arrests made almost a month ago. A Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman said while Mr. Kayani is being deported only because he used false documents to get a visa, the investigation into possible terrorist connections is continuing.
When Mr. Kayani first appeared before the Immigration and Refugee Board on Aug. 21, a government official called Mr. Kayani a possible " threat to the security of Canada." The superintendent at his apartment told police he went into Mr. Kayani's unit to do maintenance and saw "airplane schematic drawings on the wall, as well as pictures of various weapons."
Mr. Kayani came to Canada in August, 1999, to study at Seneca College for a year, but he dropped out and paid $700 to the Ottawa Business College for letters that said he was a student there. He submitted the fake letters, transcripts and attendance sheets to the Immigration department and got an extension to his student visa. But he never attended classes, and the staff now admit the school sold false documents to foreigners.
"Fahim Kayani was registered with the college but never attended classes," Wilda West, who was admissions secretary at the school, wrote in a dossier disclosed yesterday. "He did not pay the indicated international student fees as reported in the letter of acceptance."
Mr. Kayani admitted he used the fake papers to stay in Canada but said Luther Samuel, who ran the college, told him he had no choice. "He said if you leave the college, you'll be in trouble."
The Public Security and Anti-Terrorism Unit, a joint RCMP-Immigration task force, is investigating what officials describe as a network of 31 men, mostly Pakistanis, who have been living illegally in Canada for up to four years pretending to be students of the Ottawa Business College. An Immigration intelligence report says the men displayed a suspicious pattern of behaviour that included visiting a nuclear power plant at night and flying over the nuclear facility while attending flight school.
One member of the group was linked to the Global Relief Foundation, a fundraising front for al-Qaeda. There were also unexplained fires at several apartments, which authorities said might have occurred when they were testing explosives.
An intelligence document released yesterday shows the Canada Student Loans program granted 92 loans to Ottawa Business College students from 1996 to 2001. But only Canadian citizens or permanent residents are eligible for the loans, meaning none of those under investigation got federal aid.