07/21/2015 03:14 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Judge uneasy with RCMP bid for U.S. help to extradite accused Chinese spy

VANCOUVER - A British Columbia judge is concerned that assistance from the United States in extraditing an accused Chinese spy has more to do with inadequate RCMP resources than Canada's international obligations.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes said on Tuesday he wouldn't accept that the Mounties don't have the ability to translate the equivalent of more than 300,000 pages of seized information from Canadian permanent resident Su Bin.

The United States wants to extradite Su to face trial over accusations he masterminded a plot to steal military trade secrets from several American defence contractors.

The Canadian government has asked the court to OK a team of U.S. investigators to help the RCMP extract and translate reams of data found on Su's seized electronics, written predominately in Chinese characters. That information would then be used by the courts to decide whether to extradite him.

The RCMP's inability to investigate the matter on its own suggests it has a resource-allocation issue, said Schultes. He said the proposed assistance could be interpreted as "administrative convenience."

"I presume they either don't want to spend the money or whoever's in charge here can't authorize to spend the money," the judge said. "That's really the elephant in the room for me."

Stacey Repas, counsel for the federal attorney general, told the court Canada has an international obligation to co-operate with its neighbour on issues of national security.

It would take the one Canadian Mountie available working full time more than 35 years to translate the documents, and outside help is the only immediate option to expedite processing the U.S.'s extradition application, he said.

"It is a reasonable and measured way of dealing with information that relates to serious offences that have an impact on U.S. national security," said Repas.

Su's defence lawyer Greg DelBigio echoed the judge's unease, describing the application as purely a resource issue.

"I say that Canadian law has not yet reached the point where we outsource criminal investigations simply because of inadequate resources," said DelBigio.

He also said American translators may not comply with Canadian requirements that they not submit any information to the U.S. before a Canadian court order permits them to do so.

There would be little recourse available in the event of a breach, he added.

"There would be nothing that a Canadian court could do," said DelBigio. "You can't bring the information back."

Repas countered, saying American translators would be required to sign a non-disclosure form that would guarantee repercussions if they failed to follow the rules.

DelBigio said if the court rules in favour of the application, he'd like to see the RCMP sign a contract making them liable for any possible breach of information by the U.S. agents.

"This is, I submit, a perfectly reasonable, lawful and appropriate balancing of interests," he said. "It would offer my client some protection."

A Los Angeles grand jury indicted Su last August on five offences, including conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to export defence information and unauthorized computer access.

The Canadian government is attempting to revoke Su's permanent residency status but he is appealing the decision.

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