Canada says Chinese fugitive case has to run its course

Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:52am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Canada's foreign minister said Monday that the country's legal system must be allowed to independently take its course over the case of China's most wanted man, after his refugee claim was rejected and he was nearly deported this month.

Beijing has sought the deportation of Lai Changxing for years, accusing him of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in China's southeastern city of Xiamen in the 1990s.

Lai fled to Canada with his family in 1999 and claimed refugee status, saying the allegations against him were politically motivated.

His deportation date is tentatively set for July 25, but that could be pushed back by months if he succeeds in further legal challenges.

"We have a legal process that as a minister I'm not allowed to get involved with," Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told reporters in Beijing, referring to Lai.

"The government is before the courts, government agencies and institutions are before the courts to make our case for the extradition of this individual," he added.

"Both the Canadian people and the Chinese people don't have a lot of time for white collar fraudsters," Baird said.

"We have to let the Canadian justice system fairly and independently take its course," he added. "I did caution my Chinese counterparts that they shouldn't count on it being overly expeditious."   Continued...

<p>Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird answers a question during a news conference in Beijing, July 18, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee</p>