In a detention review hearing for China’s most wanted fugitive, Lai Changxing, federal ministry immigration lawyers made the unusual move of calling a witness to testify on the hearing’s first day.
Lai arrived in Canada in 1999 and has been fighting deportation back to China ever since. China has accused him of masterminding a $10-billion importation racket by bribing importation officials.
Lai seemed to have run out of appeals after the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered his removal from Canada earlier this month. But he will get one last appeal at a hearing on Thursday when his lawyers will argue he can’t get a fair trial in China, and that he can’t depend on the assurances extracted from the Chinese government by Canada that he will not be tortured or arbitrarily executed.
At Monday’s hearing a special detective with the Vancouver police’s criminal intelligence section testified that a reliable source had seen Lai facilitating a local illegal gaming business, associating with notorious loan shark Betty Yan and members of an Asian criminal gang.
Det. Const. James Fisher said his source saw Lai at a home on Gilbert Road in Richmond in 2009 where he was allegedly facilitating illegal online gambling with players in Macau.
Fisher said his source confirmed Lai gave players access to Yan, with whom he shared profits from high rates of interest garnered from borrowers.
Yan was gunned down outside an illegal Richmond gambling parlour in 2009.
Fisher also said his source saw Lai allegedly with two known members of the Asian crime group the Big Circle Boys, as well as a son-in-law of another known gang member.
One of the conditions of Lai’s release in Canada was to not to communicate with known criminals.
Rather than cross-examine Fisher, Lai’s lawyer, Darryl Larson, was granted an adjournment to the meeting until today.
Larson said outside the hearing he was surprised at the timing of the allegations mentioned by Fisher that were coming out now.
“Obviously they’ve been around since 2009,” Larson said. “I think it just shows the desperation of the [Canadian Border Services Agency] to try to put anything [forward] they can to keep Mr. Lai detained.
“They want to portray him as a criminal, as part of organized crime, even though Det. Const. Fisher said he believed he wasn’t a member of organized crime.”
Larson said he needed time to speak to Lai about the allegations, which he questioned as coming from an unnamed criminal.
Lai is expected to be deported July 25. If he wins his case, he will likely remain in Canada as a free man indefinitely, albeit in legal limbo.