POLITICS

Chinese fugitive returns to China voluntarily to face bank fraud charges

08/14/2012 12:02 EDT | Updated 10/13/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - A Vancouver man accused by Chinese authorities of misappropriating more than $150 million while he was a bank manager in China has voluntarily returned to Beijing to face the charges.

Gao Shan's legal counsel, Alex Ning, confirms his client flew to Beijing on his own volition, but would not say when he left.

"He left voluntarily, it was entirely his choice," said Ning.

"He was not forced to leave, he still has his Canadian permanent residency."

The accusations stem from when Gao was the president of a bank branch in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

He is accused of moving illegally-acquired money for Chinese businessman Li Dongzhe, who also turned himself in earlier this year after hiding from Chinese authorities in Canada since 2004.

Ning says his client decided to return to China because he was living "with a cloud over his head."

"He said he wanted to live a normal life, so he decided to go back to China, face all the charges against him and take whatever the penalty the judicial system decides," he said.

"He did not negotiate any particular terms."

Gao holds permanent residency status in Canada and originally came to Canada in 2004 on his wife's visa when she was working on an internship related to her PhD.

The former banker had been working as a handyman since 2006, when Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest.

The family lived in North Vancouver and Ning would not divulge if they all returned to China, but said Gao left Vancouver alone.

Canada Border Services Agency arrested Gao in 2007 because of irregularities with his immigration documents, but released him on a $150,000 dollar bond put up by a friend.

Initially Gao had offered to put up two properties in Vancouver as his bond, but Canada Border Services would not accept the bond, believing the money to buy the properties may have been illegally obtained.

They accused him of not fully disclosing his work history, including when he worked at the bank his charges are related to.

Gao is only the most recent Chinese suspect to return to his homeland after years in Canada.

In May, Lai Changxing was sentenced to life in prison after losing an extradition battle to stay in Canada, where he had lived for 12 years.

Known as China's most wanted fugitive, Lai fled to Vancouver in 1999 and was sought by Chinese authorities for raking in millions of dollars illegally through fraud and smuggling.

In 2001 the Canadian government was guaranteed Lai would not be executed if sent back to China and, after a long battle to avoid extradition, he was sent back in July 2011.

Lai had claimed he would be tortured or not given a fair trial in China, but a federal court in Vancouver upheld his extradition order.