Det. James Fisher, a former gang expert for the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada and now a member of British Columbia's joint Counter-Exploitation Unit, said the dispute was playing out on the streets of Macau in 1996, when Lai Tong Sang arrived in Canada with his family.
"The point of conflict was who would control the VIP rooms and the control of the VIP rooms was important because it would give access to profit through criminal enterprises," Fisher testified.
According to intelligence from other police forces, Fisher said foreign nationals were offered junkets to the casinos, where they gambled and spent their way into the debt of the gangs, in the form of either cash or favours.
Police believe on one side of the bloodshed was the Shui Fung, or Water Room gang, headed by Lai. On the other end the Macau branch of 14K, purportedly the second-largest triad in the world, headed by a notorious gangster known as Broken Tooth Koi.
"My knowledge was that Shui Fung members were involved in violent confrontations with 14K members and were being investigated for offences that ranged from assault to homicide," Fisher said.
Canada Border Services Agency alleges this is the world inhabited by Lai, and they want him declared inadmissible because of his criminal ties. They're also seeking to have Lai's wife, two daughters and his son declared inadmissible for misrepresentation on immigration applications.
Lai did not attend the hearings in person, but listened to a Cantonese translator via telephone. His wife, two daughters and son were granted permission to be absent.
Over three days of hearings, the board adjudicator heard that B.C. police intercepted a phone call concerning a contract hit on Lai, prior to a drive-by shooting at his home in 1997.
A former Canadian visa officer also testified that police in China claimed Lai contracted hits on three gang rivals — two of which were successful.
Inside the hearing, Fisher laid out the triad hierarchy and rituals but offered no direct testimony about Lai. Outside the hearing, he was more forthcoming.
"It's my belief, based on all the information I have — and I'm not substituting my belief for a finding by the adjudictor of the IRB —that Mr. Lai was the head of the Shui Fung triad society in Macau at the time that he came to Canada," Fisher said
Fisher, the third and final witness called by CBSA lawyers, explained to board adjudicator Geoff Rempel the world of crime groups such as Sun Yee On, the Wo group, 14K, Luen Kun Lok, United Bamboo and the Four Seas.
Tentacles of groups such as the Lotus Gang, the Big Circle Boys, 14K and Shui-Fung reach into Vancouver and Toronto, he testified.
"Most of the triads that we have encountered in Canada have an origin in Hong Kong but they operate independently in Canada," Fisher said.
Peter Chapman, Lai's lawyer, asked Fisher if he was aware of allegations of police corruption in Macau, where much of the information on Lai originates.
"From my reading, it looks like police corruption is a serious problem in Macau," Chapman said. "Is that consistent with what you know?"
"That was acknowledged by other police departments, including the agencies that I worked for, that corruption did exist in portions of the Macau Judicial Police in the 1990s. I couldn't comment on what the current situation is."
A decision in Lai's case is not expected for several months.
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