A lawyer for the woman accused of keeping a modern-day slave in her West Vancouver mansion said his client, Mumtaz Ladha, asked him to help get the woman a work permit that would allow her to stay in Canada.
But the job Ladha had in mind fell through, said Fiesal Ebrahim. Afterwards, Ebrahim said he kept the young woman's Tanzanian passport in a file in his office, although he had never spoken directly to her about it.
Ebrahim testified Monday at the continuation of a trial in B.C. Supreme Court before Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon.
Ladha, 60, faces four counts under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, one of them related to human trafficking. Ladha has pleaded not guilty to all four counts.
The Crown has alleged a 26-year-old Tanzanian woman was brought to Canada illegally and forced to be an unpaid domestic servant in Ladha's British Properties home.
Earlier in the trial, the woman testified she was forced to work 18 hours a day for no pay.
Family and friends of Ladha also testified, saying they never saw the young
woman mistreated and that she was a guest in Ladha's home.
Ebrahim, who knows Ladha socially as well as professionally, said the young woman never seemed uncomfortable or in the role of a servant when he saw her at social gatherings with Ladha.
Ebrahim said Ladha came to him in January 2009 asking about options for the young woman to extend her six-month visitor's visa. Ladha asked the lawyer to help with a work permit and brought in the young woman's passport, before leaving the country for a trip abroad.
When the work permit application stalled, Ebrahim said he kept the passport - now expired - in his office for three or four months.
In cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Peter LaPrairie asked Ebrahim why he never obtained the consent of the young woman herself to hold on to her passport. Ebrahim said he thought the woman had given her passport to Ladha to give to him.
LaPrairie also asked Ebrahim why he gave the passport to Ladha's daughter Zahra Ladha, after police asked where it was. "Did you not think you should check with (the young woman) before giving the passport to someone?" he asked.
The trial continues.
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