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China Fugitive To Stay in Canada

November 29, 2000

TORONTO (AP) _ A key figure in China’s biggest corruption scandal and his wife must remain in jail until their request to live in Canada is resolved, an immigration judge ruled Tuesday.

After a six-hour hearing, Otto Nuppeon ordered Lai Changxing and his wife, Tsang Mingna, held because there’s a risk that they might flee during the immigration hearing process.

Canadian police have been investigating the couple, who were arrested Thursday, since they arrived in Canada in August because of their alleged involvement in what China says is a multibillion-dollar smuggling ring and links to criminal organizations in Canada.

Lai didn’t tell Canadian officials who let him into Canada about a Chinese investigation that names Lai as the key player in a major corruption scandal, Immigration Canada lawyer Jim Murray said at the hearing.

Lai’s lawyer, Alastair Boulton, argued that Lai won’t flee, but wants to stay in Canada as a refugee. Lai has been seeking refugee status in Canada because he may face the death penalty if he returns home, his lawyer said.

Murray said the government will seek the deportation of the couple, who live near Vancouver with three children.

Chinese prosecutors accuse Lai of running a ring that smuggled $6.4 billion in cars, oil, cigarettes and other products through the port of Xiamen in China’s Fujian province, avoiding $3.6 billion in import taxes. Authorities also accuse Lai of buying official protection in a corruption scheme that reached the top of the ruling communist party.

China has convicted 84 people in connection with the smuggling ring. Eleven have been sentenced to death, including police and government officials.

Boulton said Lai has not been charged in China, and that allegations against him are more political than criminal. The defense attorney said the Chinese government had threatened to execute Lai’s brothers if he didn’t leave Vancouver and return to China.

Cai Wei, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, said China has ``taken note of the developing reports.″ Chinese officials earlier this month pledged they would bring Lai back to China to face charges.

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