Jean-Paul Delisle told Lai Tong Sang's hearing Wednesday that several red flag warnings of the man's organized crime lifestyle came up when he reviewed a file back in the mid-1990s — but the man was still allowed into the country not longer after.
Lai dropped his immigration request in Hong Kong, but made another application in Los Angeles two years later and he and his family were accepted. Seventeen years later, the Canada Border Services Agency is asking the board to find them inadmissible.
Delisle testified he would have clearly informed other immigration officials they were dealing with a "major triad head" from China if he had been notified the man made another request to enter Canada.
"Reliable police sources believed that Mr. Lai had personally ordered the murder of his rival triad head in Macau," said Delisle, explaining what information he would have relayed to Canadian visa officers who eventually processed the application.
"And while this murder attempt was failed, Mr. Lai was also believed ... to have personally ordered the murders of two other triad members that were successful."
Delisle was a visa officer for 25 years and based in Hong Kong when he was initially tasked with reviewing the man's visa application.
He learned from a special unit of the Macau police that Lai was known to be the leader of a major Chinese crime syndicate, the Shui Fung, or Water Room gang.
The triad was believed to be engaged in activity such as gambling, prostitution, assault and intimidation.
"He would be passing instructions on to his lieutenants, who would be directing the foot soldiers," he told the hearing via teleconference. "He would be the one directing all this activity."
Lai was not present in Vancouver for the hearing, but listened in on the phone from Macau with the help of a translator.
When Lai's application arrived on his desk in 1994, Delisle said he was facing a backlog that gave him time to check into the man's background with Macau and Hong Kong police, which he did after noticing several inconsistencies.
"These indicators were that he had a low level of education, had been involved in the construction industry and had high net worth," Delisle said.
But he wouldn't have made a final decision on whether to grant Lai the visa until interviewing him. Before that happened, the man withdrew his application, Delisle explained.
Lai was accepted into Canada through the Los Angeles consulate and moved to Vancouver with his family on Oct. 20, 1996.
Under cross-examination, Delisle was asked to explain why a document supplied by the Macau police unit only stated Lai was "alleged" to have ordered the rivals' murders, who were part of the rival 14K triad.
"Your affidavit is an overstatement of the information you got from the Macau police. Do you disagree?" Lai's lawyer, Peter Chapman, asked in reference to a second document entered as evidence.
"I do stand by the comment I made about Lai Tong Sang personally ordering the contract," Delisle replied.
Chapman also asked the visa officer about the standard procedure for applicants seeking to gain entry into Canada during the mid-1990s.
He asked Delisle whether it was improper to withdraw an application, and was told no.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada is arguing that Lai lied about his membership in the criminal organization in order to enter Canada, while they allege his wife and children also misrepresented their immigration status.
The family was excused from attending most of the hearing on Wednesday.
It is expected to wrap up on Thursday, but a decision is not likely until the summer.