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Taiwan seeks Ottawa’s aid in stopping drug smuggling from Canada

Kristine Wu, a spokeswoman for CBSA, declined to respond to Taiwan’s complaint about lack of co-ordination. She said in a statement that the agency works with domestic and international law-enforcement partners to ensure that goods subject to export controls are not exported from Canada into countries where they are banned.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

A Taiwanese prosecutor is calling on Ottawa to provide better co-operation and intelligence to help stop the flow of Canadian marijuana, after two massive busts in the Asian country earlier this year.

More than 70 kilograms of marijuana shipped from Vancouver were seized in April and June by Taiwanese customs at the Port of Keelung.

Seven Taiwanese were charged in the busts. However, the official says Taiwan has had no luck in getting information about the Canadian end of the situation.

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Xiaoya Zhong, chief prosecutor at Keelung District Prosecutors Office, said the two agencies in Taiwan that gather and share intelligence with other countries – Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau and Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau – don't have a direct point of contact with Canada for drug enforcement.

Instead, Taiwan must rely on RCMP liaison officers in Hong Kong, she said.

"Having a contact point would be much more convenient," said Ms. Zhong, who added that much of the marijuana coming into Taiwan originates in either the United States or Canada.

Ms. Zhong said without intelligence sharing, Taiwan is not able to provide more information for Canada to investigate further on its end.

Taiwan's complaint highlights a difficult balancing act for Canada. For decades, China has attempted to bar official contact between Ottawa and Taipei because China considers Taiwan a renegade province. More recently, the Trudeau government has indicated a wish for freer trade with China.

When asked about Taiwan's complaint about lack of information sharing, Global Affairs Canada referred questions to the RCMP. The RCMP declined to answer directly about how it shares intelligence with Taiwan, but said in an e-mail that it "maintains good working relationships with all international partners, including the Taiwanese."

Charles Burton, an associate professor of political science at Brock University and a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, said Canada has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, so there is no RCMP liaison office in Taipei.

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He noted there is unofficial co-operation between Canada and Taiwan on transnational crime through the trade offices in each country that are staffed by diplomats.

Michael Byers, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, said most international police co-operation takes place under the umbrella of Interpol, the international police co-operation organization. Taiwan was ejected from that organization in 1984 when the People's Republic of China was admitted.

But he said the increased economic ties between Canada and Taiwan necessarily requires police and judicial co-operation because many kinds of criminal activities are associated with economic activity.

"If you are going to have a major economic relationship like Canada has with Taiwan, you need to have to have a strong police and judicial co-operation," Prof. Byers said.

Ms. Zhong said Taiwan was unable to get the information they needed from RCMP based in Hong Kong involving the pot bust.

A news release published by Keelung District Prosecutors Office said the 52 kilograms of marijuana seized in April alone is enough for the personal use of 40,000 people. In Taiwan, producing, transporting and selling marijuana can lead to a sentence of life imprisonment or at least seven years, as well as a fine of around $420,000.

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An official at the Taipei Economic and Cultural office in Vancouver warns all travellers to Taiwan that carrying or having marijuana is banned in Taiwan; it breaks the criminal code.

The RCMP also declined comment on the Taiwan smuggling cases and whether there are Canadian suspects. The Canada Border Services Agency referred questions to the RCMP.

Kristine Wu, a spokeswoman for CBSA, declined to respond to Taiwan's complaint about lack of co-ordination.

She said in a statement that the agency works with domestic and international law-enforcement partners to ensure that goods subject to export controls are not exported from Canada into countries where they are banned.

The statement said risk assessments of export shipments are completed by the regional officers, as well as CBSA intelligence personnel.

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