Canada to deport China's most wanted

2011-07-22 13:01

Vancouver - A Canadian court has cleared the way for China's most wanted fugitive, Lai Changxing, to be sent home to face criminal charges, in a ruling welcomed on Friday by Beijing.

The case of Lai - who Chinese authorities accused of running a $6bn smuggling ring before he fled to Canada in 1999 - has soured diplomatic relations between the two countries, and pitted western ideas about human rights against China's treatment of prisoners.

"The life of the applicant is in the Chinese government's hands," Judge Michel Shore of Canada's Federal Court ruled late on Thursday.

China earlier promised not to sentence Lai to death if he is tried and found guilty. Canada, which does not practice capital punishment, prohibits the return of prisoners to countries where they might be executed.

There was no immediate word from Lai's lawyers about whether the ruling will be appealed.

"We welcome this decision by the Canadian court," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry described Lai as "the primary criminal suspect wanted by China's judicial authorities in the huge Xiamen smuggling case, and he has been a fugitive in Canada for many years since the case emerged".

Early extradition

Lai remained behind bars overnight, after a separate court ruling overturned an order by the Immigration and Refugee Board to release him.

Canadian officials told the court Lai could be extradited as early as the weekend.

If an appeal is not launched, or fails, the ruling will end Lai's 12-year battle to remain in Canada.

He fled here with his family after being accused in China of running a massive smuggling ring based in the city of Xiamen in Fujian province, bribing officials, and avoiding paying taxes.

Canada's government has repeatedly tried to send Lai to China, and he's been called a "common criminal" by politicians and judges. But until now the independent courts and Immigration and Refugee Board had blocked his deportation on human rights grounds.

This week Foreign Minister John Baird noted, during a visit to China, that while Canada's courts are independent, "both the Canadian people and the Chinese people don't have a lot of time for white-collar fraudsters".

Lai admitted to Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, in a 2009 interview, that he had taken advantage of perceived loopholes in Chinese law at a time of murky custom regulations.

Earlier this month, a key risk assessment by immigration officials cleared the way for his return, after they ruled Lai would not risk death or torture if extradited. Thursday's ruling rejected the prisoner's appeal of the assessment.

Poster boy

His lawyer, well-known human rights advocate David Matas, has warned repeatedly that Lai would risk death or torture in China, despite the country's unusual diplomatic assurances to Canada. Lai's lawyers say at least seven of his associates have died or vanished in China's justice system.

Matas told the court on Thursday Lai had become China's "poster boy for the fight against corruption".

Matas noted in a court filing that China has promised "access to a lawyer, permission of a Canadian official to be present at the hearing of the applicant, Canadian official access to recordings of interrogations and hearings, and permission for Canadian officials to visit the applicant in prison, mitigating risk of abuse".

But, he added, "these four assurances amount to nothing".

The court apparently disagreed.

Family returned voluntarily

Shore's ruling cited China's much-criticized record on its treatment of other prisoners, but the judge said "it is assumed that the assurances of the Chinese government... will be kept".

China's "honour and face" would be at stake during the lifetime monitoring of Lai, it added.

Lai's wife and children had previously returned to China voluntarily, and suggestions that Lai was talking to China about also returning became a factor in Thursday's ruling.

"This willingness to engage in negotiations to return to China belies the alleged risk of return to China," Shore said.

At a recent detention hearing, a Vancouver police officer testified that an informant told him Lai had been involved in illegal gambling and loan sharking activities in 2009, and had associated with members of a known criminal gang.

Read more on:    china  |  canada

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


An uncomfortable election

The latter few weeks of election 2014, have seen South Africans reeling from an assault on their comfort zone when it comes to voting, writes Daniel Silke


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9 has a beautiful one-piece, unibody design where...

From R2899.85

I'm shopping for:


You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.