Canadian priest allegedly gambled away $500,000 of Syria refugee aid

Amer Saka of the Chaldean Catholic church allegedly collected money to support refugees arriving from the war-torn nation

Syrian refugees arrive at Vancouver international airport. A Canadian priest has been charged over stealing funds which were to be used for resettlement programs.

Syrian refugees arrive at Vancouver international airport. A Canadian priest has been charged over stealing funds which were to be used for resettlement programs.

A Canadian priest has been charged over stealing more than $500,000 intended for the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and then gambling it away.

Amer Saka, 51, a clergyman of the Chaldean Catholic church – based in Baghdad – had allegedly collected the funds from more than 20 donors to support refugees arriving from the war-torn nation, according to local police.

“This investigation spanned throughout the province of Ontario, the United States and other countries where refugees were attempting to come to Canada,” police in London, Ontario said in a statement.

Bishop Emanuel Shaleta, head of the Chaldean Catholic church in Canada, told The London Free Press that Saka had called him to say he had gambled and lost all of the money.

The priest had been involved in a sponsorship program for refugees for several years. He was suspended by the diocese of Hamilton, Ontario after police opened an investigation in February.

Saka was arrested on Wednesday and granted bail after being charged with fraud and a related possession charge. The newspaper said a court ordered Saka not to enter any casino.

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