Canada could deport China's most wanted man in days

Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:56pm EDT
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By Greg Joyce

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - China's most-wanted fugitive could be on a plane back home from Canada as early as Saturday unless a Canadian judge moves quickly to block his deportation, lawyers said on Thursday.

Federal Court Judge Michel Shore will decide on Thursday night or Friday morning whether to block the extradition of Lai Changxing, who says he does not believe Chinese assurances that he would not be tortured or executed if sent back.

Shore reserved judgment after several hours of arguments on whether it would be safe to extradite Lai, accused of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in China in the 1990s.

Lai's lawyer, David Matas, told Reuters in an email that if Shore ruled against his client, there were no further legal avenues to be pursued. Canadian government lawyer Helen Park said at the hearing that he could be extradited as early as Saturday.

China has told Canada in a diplomatic note that it would not put Lai to death or torture him, and that Canadian officials would have access to him.

"The Chinese government says it is assuring safeguards," Shore told Matas during the Ottawa court hearing, which was relayed by teleconference to British Columbia, where Lai is in detention.

Shore said these were "extraordinary" assurances from China, and he asked if the high profile of this case would not guarantee Lai's safety.

"These are not adequate assurances. They don't amount to anything," Matas replied.   Continued...

<p>Lai Changxing, who has been called China's most wanted fugitive, listens to a translator during a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia September 18, 2007. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>