06/23/2015 12:50 EDT | Updated 06/23/2016 05:59 EDT

Wealthy Vancouver businessman in Winnipeg court, fights to stay in Canada

WINNIPEG - A wealthy Vancouver real estate developer should not be returned to China on corruption charges because he is the victim of political persecution, his lawyer told a Federal Court judge Tuesday.

Mo Yeung Ching was denied a refugee claim last year. His lawyer, David Matas, is seeking to overturn that decision on the assertion that the charges against his client are a political conspiracy that stemmed from a property purchase in the 1990s.

"He wasn't involved in any way," Matas told court. "He just introduced the would-be buyer and the would-be seller."

The controversy surrounds a 1997 purchase by a provincial government in China from a joint-venture company. Ching's father was the head of a provincial government body and also knew the real estate broker, so Ching helped the two sides get together, Matas said.

Years later, the Chinese government investigated the matter and alleged that Ching, along with others, conspired to collect an inflated commission from the sale.

Matas said Tuesday the accusation is untrue and was simply part of Communist Party infighting and an attempt to get to Ching's politician father.

The corruption accusation is a key reason why Ching's claim for refugee status was rejected.

But Matas argued the decision is flawed because the evidence against his client is scant, save for two witness statements that Matas said were obtained by torture.

Justice Yvan Roy repeatedly asked Matas to provide evidence to back up his claims and asked why the Chinese government didn't go directly after Ching's father if he was indeed their true target.

"Isn't this ... an extremely roundabout way to get to the father?" he asked.

The lawyer for the federal Justice department, Nalini Reddy, urged the court to uphold the immigration and refugee board's rejection of Ching refugee claim.

Matas' assertion that witnesses were tortured is unproven, she said, and the evidence against Ching is "well-corroborated" by other people.

Reddy said the immigration and refugee board does not have to prove a criminal case against a claimant, but only show that there is enough evidence to support charges.

The judge reserved his decision in the case and did not indicate when he might deliver it.