Wednesday, October 10, 2007
VANCOUVER -- A sternly-worded
securities commission ruling against
disgraced British Columbia financial
advisor Ian Thow is "an exercise in
futility," according to an elderly
woman impoverished by the man who
stole millions to fund his jets,
yachts and mansions.
"He's not giving back our money, is
he? Even if they fine him, they're
not going to get money from him.
He's not even here in Canada," said
Shirley Garwood, a 70-year-old
Vancouver Island widow who, together
with her 80-year-old sister,
invested $465,000 in a short-term
construction loan scheme that never
It was a pattern that Mr. Thow, who
was at the time a senior
vice-president with Berkshire
Investment Group Inc. in Victoria,
repeated with dozens -- perhaps
hundreds -- of people in B.C. and
Alberta. All told, it is alleged he
bilked them out of $32-million.
'HE'S NOT GIVING OUR
MONEY BACK, BACK IS HE?'
An undated photo of
Ian Thow in a helicopter
that he was trying out,
but didn't buy.
Photograph by :
Yesterday, a panel of the B.C.
Securities Commission ruled on the
cases of 26 people, who Mr. Thow
together convinced to invest
$8.7-million into the construction
scheme and shares of National
Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd. Those
investments never existed, and Mr.
Thow instead blew $6-million of
their dollars on an ostentatious
lifestyle that included two lavish
personal jets -- one complete with
gold-plated seat belt buckles -- a
56-foot yacht, a massive house and
extravagant food and clothing
His own declarations that he was
worth a half-billion dollars, his
habit of showing up to meetings in
his own helicopter and his offers to
potential clients of silver-sky
trips in his private jet convinced
them that he was a man who knew how
to spin cash -- and, often, money
borrowed against mortgage-free homes
-- into gold.
Through high-profile charity work
for Crime Stoppers, hospital and
police foundations he also suckered
in much of Vancouver Island -- and
celebrities like Nickelback's Chad
Kroeger -- into thinking he was, in
Ms. Garwood's description, "a
paragon of virtue."
In fact, he was nothing of the sort.
Ms. Garwood now calls him a
"psychopath." The B.C. Securities
Commission called him one of the
worst it has ever seen.
"This case represents one of the
most callous and audacious frauds
this province has seen. Mr. Thow
preyed on his clients by offering
them non-existent securities," the
commission's panel wrote. "He took
their money and betrayed their
trust. He has left a trail of
financial devastation and
In its ruling, the panel declared
Mr. Thow a fraudster who failed to
deal fairly, honestly and in good
faith with his clients, traded in
securities without being registered
to do so and made untrue statements
of material facts about the
securities he offered.
Next month, the commission will hear
submissions on punitive measures,
but, given that Mr. Thow fled the
province in the middle of the night
years ago and now lives in the
Seattle area, he is now beyond the
reach of B.C. regulators.
"I have to be sympathetic to the
victim's comments. I understand our
action may not do much for her,"
said Lang Evans, the commission's
director of enforcement. "What it
does do is obviously condemn his
activities. It's a permanent blot on
his record and it will be on our Web
But Ms. Garland -- who received some
of her money back through mediation
with Berkshire but still has
hundreds of thousands outstanding on
a mortgage Mr. Thow convinced her to
take out -- said justice demands
"I don't think I'll ever get my
money back, but I sure would like to
see that man in jail," she said. "He
destroyed our lives. We can't even
travel. We can't do anything. And
he's sitting there living this rich
lifestyle in Seattle. I think this
man should be made to pay."
B.C. Securities Commission takes
submissions in November on
penalties; it will rule on Dec. 24.
Maximum penalty is $250,000 fine,
plus life-time ban from dealing in
Chances of B.C. Securities
Commission recouping that are slim.
Mr. Thow has left Canada, and though
some of his assets were seized, they
were largely bought with borrowed
money and the residual value is only
a sliver of the maximum fine.
RCMP say it is investigating Mr.
Thow, but the Crown has made no
decision on which charges to press.
An extradition order will likely be
necessary to bring Mr. Thow back to