07/20/2011 07:38 EDT | Updated 09/19/2011 05:12 EDT

Chinese Fugitive Lai Changxing A Flight Risk: Lawyer


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- VANCOUVER - A Chinese fugitive's links to organized crime in Canada make him a serious flight risk, a federal government lawyer told the man's detention hearing.

Kevin Boothroyd, who represents the Canada Border Services Agency, said Tuesday that evidence presented at Lai Changxing's Vancouver hearing shows he not only has close contact with criminals, he has done business with them.

Boothroyd said those connections could help Lai escape.

"Lai is in close contact with people who can facilitate his flight," Boothroyd said.

Vancouver Police Det. James Fisher told the hearing earlier that Lai's connections with the Big Circle Boys gang could enable him to get fake documents good enough to fool border officials.

Fisher said an informant of his was part of a conversation in which Lai talked about running a gaming house in British Columbia. He testifed that while his source didn't see a bet made at the house in Richmond, B.C., he was present when Lai talked about his role in the illegal gambling den.

Lai is wanted in China over accusations he bilked the Communist government out of millions of tax dollars. He arrived in Canada in 1999 and has been fighting his removal from the country ever since.

The man's criminal connections, combined with his repeated breaches of release conditions and the potential for his impending removal from Canada back to China adds more weight for the Immigration and Refugee Board to order him detained, Boothroyd told an Immigration and Refugee Board member.

"Mr. Lai's continued close and prolonged association with these people is a clear indication that he's a very serious flight risk," he said.

CBSA Lawyer Daniel Tucci wrapped up the government's case against Lai saying the law states Canada must not be a safe haven for criminals.

"We submit there is no doubt that Mr. Lai is in fact a fugitive from Chinese justice."

Tucci said the Chinese government has given the Canadian government "enhanced assurances" that Lai will not be put to death or tortured.

"And in the context of Mr. Lai's case, that's quite unprecedented."

Darryl Larson, Lai's lawyer, will present his final statement Wednesday, in an attempt to have his client freed while a federal court decides Lai's fate.

The clock started ticking again July 7 for Lai's removal.

After four years of waiting, the federal government released its second pre-removal risk assessment report, stating that the Chinese government made assurances around Lai's safety.

He was arrested days later and faced imminent deportation, but his lawyers convinced a federal court for a temporary stay of the order.

The Federal Court of Canada will hear a full argument Thursday on an application to stay Lai's deportation once again.

Tucci said if the federal court rules against Lia, he could be removed from the country as soon as next week.

While Lai waits for both the federal court and immigration board decisions he remains in solitary confinement at the nearby Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

Immigration Board member Geoff Remple is expected to make a decision on Lai's detention as early as Wednesday.

Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press