An Île-Bizard, Que., man that the RCMP has accused of defrauding taxpayers of nearly half a million dollars will spend the weekend in an Ontario jail before his bail hearing related to 58 charges.

The Mounties say Ahmad El-Akhal, 62, his wife Tahani Mohamad Hassan Ee-Akhal, 53, and Mississauga, Ont., resident Hussam Hassan Ali Saif, 44, were involved in an immigration scam that lasted more than 10 years.

The three appeared before a judge Friday in Brampton, Ont., to face numerous charges.

Saif and Tahani Ee-Akhal were granted bail and are due back in court in two weeks, but Ahmad El-Akhal's bail hearing was set for Tuesday.

RCMP Insp. Art Pittman said Ahmad El-Akhal signed up 300 people in the Middle East for Canadian citizenship while posing as an immigration consultant.

The documents were issued, but none of the people ever came to Canada. Instead, Pittman said, El-Akhal and the others invented Ontario addresses for the new citizens, filed fake income tax returns in their names and received rebates.

"It's alleged that he was facilitating a significant number of people claiming to be living in Canada when in fact they were not. and by virtue of the fact they claimed to be living in Canada they were able to claim tax benefits they were not entitled to," said Pittman.

He said the fraud netted El-Akhal and the others nearly $500,000.

Tahani Ee-Akhal was allowed to return to suburban Montreal after posting $5,000 bail.
Lengthy investigation

The arrest and formal charging of El-Akhal is the result of a 2½-year investigation into more than 140 suspicious cases.

Pittman says police were tipped off by Immigration Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, and the investigation is not over.

Citizen and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney released a statement Friday saying at least 260 files are being investigated.

Kenney said at least five people received Canadian citizenship fraudulently, and said amendments to the Citizenship Act would increase penalties for this type of fraud to a maximum of five years in prison.

El-Akhal faces 58 charges involving Citizenship Act offences of aiding or abetting the making of a false representation, fraud, concealing material circumstances, Immigration and Refugee Protection Act offences of counselling misrepresentation, which could induce an error in the administration of the act, as well as Criminal Code offences of forgery, uttering a forged document, fraud, conspiracy and possession of proceeds obtained by crime.

Saif is facing three charges under the Citizenship Act for aiding or abetting the making of a false representation, fraud, concealing material circumstances and one conspiracy charge under the Criminal Code.

Tahani El-Akhal is charged along with her husband with possession of proceeds obtained by crime, in the amount of $155,000.