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RCMP should wait until arrest to celebrate

David Baines

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The RCMP's announcement Thursday that it has laid 25 fraud charges against former Victoria investment executive Ian Thow had a glaring omission.

The announcement made no mention of where Thow is, whether he had been arrested, whether there was a warrant for his arrest, or whether the Mounties even know where he is.

Insp. George Pemberton, head of the RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET) in Vancouver -- the group that conducted the investigation -- refused to make any comment.

There was also no attempt to explain why the charges -- which were laid on June 9 -- were not announced until 17 days later. Presumably RCMP didn't want to tip Thow, who moved to Seattle shortly after his investment scheme was uncovered, in case he decided to slip away to another jurisdiction.

If this was the plan, though, it didn't work, because the charges were eventually announced, sans Thow.

I say the public should be most annoyed, not only at the Vancouver IMET team, but also at the B.C. attorney-general's ministry, that it took three full years just to lay charges.

I say the RCMP should have arrested him before he had a chance to leave the jurisdiction. If our system does not have the capacity to intercept people in situations where there is a reasonable apprehension that serious crimes have been committed, and where there is a high risk of flight (the RCMP knew Thow had dual citizenship), then we have a real problem.

Now we have to find the guy, extradite him from whatever country he's in and -- in the absence of a guilty plea -- place him on trial.

If he is convicted, he will get -- this is my official prediction -- a six-year sentence, which will translate into two years in jail at a minimum security institution before he is granted full parole.

To put this in perspective, consider that the maximum prison sentence for fraud was recently increased to 14 years from 10, ostensibly to show Parliament's repugnance of white-collar crime.

Consider also that the $10 million that the Crown alleges Thow conned from investors is less than a third of the amount that he is believed to have bilked people out of.

As well, consider that -- in the 4 1/2 years since the Vancouver IMET was created -- this is only the second case that has drawn charges in B.C.

On second thought, don't consider these things. You will be tempted to renounce your Canadian citizenship, or worse.

In any event, while police are busy playing their version of "Where's Waldo?" the RCMP IMET people had the audacity to include a self-congratulatory note in their release.

"I am proud of the work that our teams are doing across Canada," crowed national IMET program leader Stephen White. "This investigation demonstrates that the IMETs are an important and effective partner in ensuring the integrity of Canada's capital markets."

It's enough to make a person gag.


Ian Thow takes flight