Canada court rules against China's most wanted man

Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:18pm EDT
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Federal Court of Canada cleared the way on Thursday for the extradition of China's most wanted man, dismissing concerns that he could be tortured or executed back home.

Judge Michel Shore refused a request to stay the deportation of Lai Changxing, accused by Beijing of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in China in the 1990s.

Lai fled to Canada with his family in 1999 and claimed refugee status, saying the allegations against him were politically motivated. Canada rejected his refugee claim, and after years of legal wrangling government lawyer Helen Park said on Thursday he could be sent back early as Saturday.

China says Lai bribed Chinese officials to avoid paying taxes and duties on everything from fuel to cigarettes that were shipped into China's southeastern Fujian province.

Lai admitted in a 2009 interview with the Globe and Mail newspaper that he had avoided taxes by taking advantage of loopholes in the law, but he denied bribery charges. He said if he were not in Canada he would have been executed by now.

(Reporting by Greg Joyce; writing by Randall Palmer; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)

<p>Lai Changxing, one of China's most wanted fugitives, waits to take part in a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia September 18, 2007. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>