The Canadian government had explosive information on Lai Tong Sang's alleged triad activities in Macau, including the ordering of three murders, less than a year after the purported triad boss took up residence in Canada in the fall of 1996, an immigration hearing has been told.
But authorities did nothing until now, nearly 16 years later, to have Mr. Lai and his family deported from Canada.
The information about Mr. Lai was provided to immigration enforcement authorities in early July of 1997 by Jean-Paul Delisle, then a Canadian visa officer in Hong Kong responsible for assessing prospective immigrants suspected of involvement in triad or other illegal activities.
Mr. Delisle, who testified Wednesday at Mr. Lai's deportation hearing, was asked why the government took no action to have Mr. Lai removed from the country, once they had his damaging reports.
"Do you have any knowledge why this was not done?" persisted Mr. Lai's lawyer, Peter Chapman.
"No, I don't, Mr. Chapman," Mr. Delisle replied.
In a sworn affidavit sent to Canadian officials on July 3, 1997, Mr. Delisle pinpointed Mr. Lai as head of the Shui Fong triad in Macau, which he said was engaged in loansharking, prostitution, assault, intimidation and illegal gambling.
The affidavit also contained information from local police sources he considered reliable that Mr. Lai had ordered the murder of three rival triad members, Mr. Delisle testified. Two of the murder attempts were successful, he said.
The day before, Mr. Delisle had sent a fax to officials in Canada containing a confidential synopsis of Mr. Lai's alleged heavy involvement in Macau's triad underworld, prepared by the Macau police department. "I told them I wanted something in writing that could be used in Canada in a court of law," he explained.
Yet nothing arose from Mr. Delisle's submissions. The question of why the government has allowed Mr. Lai to retain residency in Canada for so long remains unanswered.
This, despite the sensational nature of much of the testimony during the first two days of his deportation hearing.
"I can refer you to our communications people. I don't have a response," said Becky Chan, one of two Canada Border Services Agency representatives pressing the case against Mr. Lai at this week's hearing.
Communications spokesman Philippe Couvrette of Citizenship and Immigration Canada said he could provide no further information on the case because of privacy laws.
Mr. Lai was admitted to Canada as an investor immigrant in 1996, after an immigration officer at the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles, where Mr. Lai applied, failed to check with Mr. Delisle in Hong Kong before approving the application.
Mr. Delisle said all immigrant applications from individuals with any hint of triad or organized crime activity were supposed to be processed through his office in Hong Kong. At the time, many suspected triad members were attempting to enter Canada under the country's investment program, he told the hearing.
He added that Mr. Lai had applied in Hong Kong under the program in 1994. However, Mr. Lai later withdrew his application and applied in Los Angeles instead.
Mr. Delisle said he would have rejected Mr. Lai's application, because of his alleged role as head of the Shui Fong triad. However, he had not had time to interview him, as required by Canada's immigration laws of the time. "I was the only officer in Hong Kong interviewing possible triad members, and there was a backlog of cases," he said.
Mr. Lai's admission to Canada caused a furor when it came to light, after a drive-by shooting took place at his Vancouver residence in the summer of 1997. The hearing heard Tuesday that the shooting was carried out by local members of the rival 14K triad, headed by Chipped Tooth Koi.
According to Mr. Delisle, Mr. Koi was one of the three 14K members he referred to in his affidavit who had been targeted by Mr. Lai. The attempt to murder Mr. Koi was unsuccessful, Mr. Delisle said.
Challenged by Mr. Chapman that he had no direct knowledge of the contract taken out against Mr. Koi, Mr. Delisle said he stood by his allegation that "Mr. Lai personally ordered [it] on Chipped Tooth Koi. That information was provided to me by authorities in Macau." The hearing concludes Thursday with testimony from Detective Jim Fisher, who spent many years tracking the activities of Asian gangs in Canada and abroad.