Priest charged with stealing $500,000
Funds destined for Hamilton refugee program
LONDON, ONT. — A London priest has been charged with stealing $500,000 meant for refugees in a sponsorship program overseen by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.
London Police announced Thursday charges have been laid against 51-year-old Amer Saka after an investigation into misappropriated funds was launched in February.
Police said the diocese cooperated with officers in the investigation. The Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto had suspended Saka from his parish.
Bishop Douglas Crosby of the Hamilton diocese issued a brief statement on the situation to The Spectator.
“I wish to affirm that the Diocese of Hamilton remains committed to the continuing care and support of all refugees under the Diocese’s refugee sponsorship program, including those whose sponsorship may have involved Father Saka,” said Bishop Crosby.
The Hamilton diocese knew there were about 10 or 11 of Saka’s refugees who had arrived in Southern Ontario within the past few months, and one or two of those could be living in Hamilton. After the investigation became public in March, Hamilton Msgr. Murray Kroetsch said Saka had been with the program for about eight or nine years.
The Hamilton diocese filed up to 20 applications for refugees from Iraq, sponsored by Saka.
Kroetsch said Chaldean Bishop Emanuel Shaleta, who had discovered the misappropriation, believed Saka may have had a gambling problem.
Crosby confirmed the Diocese of Hamilton’s sponsorship program will continue “its long established and important work in sponsoring refugees.” The Diocese of Hamilton has about 30 churches and parties in their sponsorship program, and the government requires any group sponsoring refugees to financially support them for their first 12 months.
London Police say Saka, a priest at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in London, obtained the money from more than 20 victims. The Chaldean church represents Catholics from Iraq and neighbouring countries.
London police said the investigation spanned Ontario, the United States and countries where refugees were attempting to come to Canada. Saka is charged with fraud exceeding $5,000 and possess proceeds of property or thing exceeding $5,000.