The Canada Border Services Agency raided eight shopping centres in Ottawa and Gatineau Monday, arresting 30 suspected illegal workers — 15 in each city — at kiosks selling beauty products.
A booth called Seacret is set up on the main floor at Bayshore, and witnesses tell the Sun they saw one man in his early 20s taken away in cuffs by four cops and four CBSA officers shortly after 2 p.m.
“I just saw immigration and cops over there,” said Pavi Mahen.
“I was busy, doing work, and then all of a sudden I didn’t see one of the guys there. They arrested him, they took him that way,” she said, motioning toward Zellers.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” said Dana Graham, a mall employee.
“It was just a whole bunch of police officers and then they kind of left with him.”
Ottawa and Gatineau police assisted with the sweeps at Bayshore, Billings Bridge, Carlingwood, Hazeldean, Place d’Orleans, St. Laurent, Galeries de Hull, and Promenades de l’Outaouais between 2 and 5 p.m. Monday.
At least five of the malls, including both in Quebec, have kiosks selling Dead Sea skin products from Israel, but authorities wouldn’t confirm the names of any businesses.
Several sources say the Seacret employees are Israeli, however, the CBSA isn’t saying where the suspects are originally from or how long they’ve been in Canada.
“We don’t have information on each of these individuals,” said CBSA spokesperson Stephane Malepart.
Employees at Carlingwood Mall, who didn’t want to be named, said there are at least 10 staffers working at two kiosks called Dead Sea and GRATiAE organic beauty products.
“They know each other, they do speak the same language,” said an employee, adding it sounds like Hebrew. “They are very close.”
The Dead Sea booth was closed Tuesday afternoon.
Carlingwood employees tell the Sun the Dead Sea and GRATiAE staffers are affiliated with a similar booth at St. Laurent.
The CBSA wouldn’t reveal when it was tipped off or how long it’s been investigating the kiosk operations.
“We’re not able to confirm the link between all these,” said Malepart.
“It’s the same type of business but we don’t have details on the structure.”
The Sun has learned kiosk staffers were brought in from Toronto late Monday and could be moving the operation to Montreal after Christmas.
All 30 workers are being detained in Laval, near Montreal, where they’ll appear in court Thursday.
An Immigration and Refugee Board hearing will decide whether they’ll remain in custody or released with or without conditions, said Malepart.