Canada Confirms two Chinese Nationals Arrested
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed Friday that "a man and a woman" of Chinese nationality had been arrested here at the request of Canadian immigration authorities.
Few details were released, and the authorities here did not confirm the version of events released by the Canadian embassy in Beijing, which said a notorious smuggling mastermind has been arrested.
The embassy told AFP earlier Friday that that Lai Changxing, who is China's most wanted man and alleged mastermind of a major smuggling ring there, had been arrested on immigration charges in the Vancouver area.
Grant Lerner, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said here that the two Chinese nationals were arrested Thursday, in a joint operation with Canadian immigration officials. Further details were not released.
In Beijing, embassy spokeswoman Jennifer May had said Lai was detained along with a woman named Tsang Ming-na. May said she was not aware whether China had requested that Lai be arrested and extradited to China.
Lai in China faces charges of running a huge smuggling racket from the southeastern Chinese port of Xiamen, Fujian province.
He set up a company, YuanHua Group, there in the early 1990s, and by 1998 had come to dominate commercial life in the bustling port.
Using the company as a front, he is alleged to have smuggled huge quantities of diesel fuel, tobacco, vehicles, rubber and other products at will along the southeast coast, with the collusion of customs and police.
The case has mushroomed into a major corruption scandal in China. A total of 14 senior government officials and YuanHua employees were sentenced to death on November 8 for their role in the scam. Another 70 -- including Lai's two brothers -- were given jail sentences.
Lai reportedly escaped the huge central government graft-busting investigation, which descended on Xiamen in July last year thanks to a tip-off from Fujian's deputy police chief.
Canada and China do not have an extradition agreement and deal with extradition issues on a case-by-case basis.
Lai, a former farmer from Fujian province, is considered almost certain to face the death penalty if sent back to China.
The death penalty does not exist in Canada.
A Chinese man deported from Canada last year was sentenced to death, for a crime committed after he had been returned to his homeland. When news of the death sentence was relayed to Canada's Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Elinor Caplan, she insisted that the Canadian government had behaved properly.
Canada has an extradition treaty with the United States, which, like China, has capital punishment. Canada in most cases seeks assurances that a suspect about to be extradited will not face the death penalty -- VANCOUVER (AFP)
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