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Extradition of Thow takes time
Expert says it could take years before he comes to trial in Canada

Andrew A. Duffy
Times Colonist

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Whether disgraced investment adviser Ian Thow is arrested in the U.S., Jamaica or anywhere else outside of Canada, it could take months or even years before he faces a court in this country, according to an extradition expert.

Former Victoria lawyer Gary Botting, who has written two books and a number of articles on extradition law and practice, said given the legal hoops and a complex appeals process, "if he resists it could be a year, it could be two or longer." Thow has been charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000 following a lengthy investigation by the RCMP's Integrated Market Enforcement Team, but has not yet been arrested.

According to IMET spokesman acting sergeant Sammy Wu, police are working on that.

When asked yesterday if an arrest was imminent, Wu would only say he could not comment.

"But I can say that it will happen," he offered.

Thow is a former Berkshire Investment Group vice-president who fled the country in the summer of 2005 amid claims from former clients and creditors that he bilked them out of more than $37 million. The victims said Thow convinced them to invest in schemes that ranged from shares in a Jamaican bank to loans for Vancouver developers and seed shares with his former employer.

When Thow left Canada he settled in Seattle, although the Times Colonist learned recently he had been spending time in Jamaica working on some kind of business deal.

The RCMP would not comment on whether they believed he was on the run.

Botting said if Thow is arrested in Jamaica, the Canadian authorities may have an easier time getting him back to Vancouver than if he is in the U.S., despite the fact there is no bilateral extradition treaty with Jamaica.

He said most Commonwealth countries, including Jamaica, are designated as extradition partners under a schedule in Canada's revised Extradition Act.

However, Botting pointed out while the U.S. and Canada do have a treaty -- Canada has 51 bilateral extradition treaties with countries around the world -- the U.S. does not necessarily make extradition easy.

"It is a little more complicated in extraditing from the U.S.," he said, noting it always requires the Justice Department presenting the country in question with the details of the case. "While Canada has proved to be more compliant, the U.S. seems to recognize people have more rights." As a result, Botting argues there is a bit of a double standard.

"Canada is compelled to give up people who are being extradited on almost no evidence at all, whereas with the U.S. the evidence has to be sufficient to make out a case for indictment," he said.

According to an official from the federal Department of Justice, the decision whether or not to make a request for extradition is that of the prosecutorial authorities, who would have conduct of the prosecution in Canada.

And granting extradition is decided by the determining factors of dual criminality -- whether the alleged offence a crime in both countries -- and the seriousness of the offence, among other things.

Canada may also make a request to the foreign country for the provisional arrest of the person in question, although it will be Canadian officers bringing that person back to Canada.

But there is a long way to go before that happens. At this point, Thow has yet to be arrested, and authorities are not saying if they know exactly where he is for fear of jeopardizing the operation.

That was the same reason given for the delay in confirming charges, which had been prepared June 9 but not announced until Thursday because the Crown did not want to compromise police attempts to try and locate and arrest Thow.

Thow faces a maximum penalty of 10 years to 14 years per charge.


Ian Thow takes flight