Li Dongzhe one of the many Chinese fugitives hiding in Vancouver
Li Dongzhe is escorted into a courtroom in Harbin, China, by bailiffs. — HARBIN INTERMEDIATE PEOPLE¹S COURT, CHINA
The many Chinese corruption fugitives hiding in Metro Vancouver should keep running from the law based on the “brutal” treatment Chinese officials have handed several high-profile suspects, according to a Vancouver immigration lawyer.
Douglas Cannon — who represented Li Dongzhe — said his client has authorized him to publicize secret documents that show how Vancouver police and the RCMP conducted costly surveillance and pursued Li and his brother Li Donghu in Vancouver.
Li, a businessman accused of leading a $113-million bank embezzlement scheme, returned to China in December 2011, seven years after fleeing to Vancouver with his brother.
The documents reveal how the corruption suspects laundered money in Vancouver real estate and vehicles, and established companies long before they ran to B.C. They then sold assets and used “nominees” to make purchases and hold assets when they feared pursuit by officials.
Documents also reveal how China pressures Canada’s legal system — and Canadian tax dollars — into action to trap fugitive suspects.
But most importantly for Cannon and the Li brothers, the documents show that China will renege on its negotiated promises.
“It is unusual for a lawyer to disclose this information, but the Li brothers’ attempts to co-operate were completely ignored,” Cannon said. “After they returned to China, it was like, ‘Gotcha.’ Any deals were off the table, and (their) family members were beaten.”
Cannon said he believes China’s treatment of the Li brothers will only make China’s efforts to repatriate suspects more difficult, and therefore will cause more problems and costs for countries like Canada.
Li Dongzhe bargained with China, arguing that if he was treated fairly more suspects would turn themselves in, Cannon said.
“I know there is a lot of these (corruption suspect) guys around (in B.C.),” Cannon said. “Anyone else that is on the run should take (this case) as a message.”
Cannon said Li Dongzhe’s case is different from that of another high-profile suspect returned to China from Vancouver, Lai Changxing, because the Li brothers won a ruling that promised Canada would not return them to China by force.
After secret negotiations with Chinese “Fox Hunt” police liaisons and the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver, Li Donghu first returned to China and treatment seemed to be fair, Cannon said.
So Li Dongzhe also returned. Cannon said the brothers helped arrange the return of a third accused in the embezzlement case, government banker Gao Shan.
But as soon as Shan left his family’s North Vancouver hiding place and boarded a flight to China, officials brought down the hammer, Cannon said. The younger Li brother was eventually given 25 years for his role in the bank fraud — in which Shan allegedly transferred funds to offshore shell companies controlled by the brothers — and Li Dongzhe got a life sentence. But Shan got only 15 years.
“It is bizarre to me that the one government official involved got lenient treatment,” Cannon said.