Andrew A. Duffy
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
If the RCMP and provincial Crown counsel know the whereabouts of
disgraced Victoria investment adviser Ian Thow, they're not telling.
Amid rumours Thow has been seen near his home in Seattle, and has
contacted some former clients looking for money, the agencies who are
searching for the former vice-president of Berkshire Investment Group
are keeping mum on the subject.
"We are continuing to work with the federal Department of Justice,
provincial Crown and with U.S. authorities," was all Insp. George
Pemberton of the Vancouver RCMP's Integrated Market Enforcement Team
would say yesterday.
The RCMP has been searching for Thow for nearly four months. He is
charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000 as a result of his misuse of
former clients' investments.
Thow, who has been living in Seattle but is known to have spent some
time recently in Jamaica, left Victoria in the summer of 2005. That
happened amid claims from former clients and creditors that he bilked
them out of more than $32 million by convincing them to invest in
schemes ranging from shares in a Jamaican bank to loans for Vancouver
The Vancouver Sun which reported Thow has been spotted recently near his
home in Seattle, had been speculating the Crown was negotiating with
Thow to have him return to face the charges, but Crown spokesman Stan
Lowe threw cold water on that idea yesterday.
"There isn't one," he said in an interview when asked if a deal was
being put together to bring Thow back to Vancouver. "We want an
individual to return to the jurisdiction either voluntarily or by way of
the police, but we are not about to make a plea resolution of a matter
when a person is the subject of a warrant."
As for Thow coming back voluntarily, Pemberton said stranger things have
"Obviously it would save everyone a lot of time and money if he just
walked up to Peace Arch Border Crossing and said, 'Hi, here I am,' "
said Pemberton. "But you'd be surprised, not too many people want to
spend time in federal detention centres in the U.S."
The fact that Canadian authorities aren't negotiating a deal does soothe
the frayed nerves of some of Thow's former clients.
"[Negotiating] would piss me off, what's there to negotiate? He's a
criminal, just bring him in," said Brad Goodwin, whose family claims
Thow bilked them of $1.4 million.
Goodwin said he's tried to stop thinking about Thow and the ordeal his
family has been through.
"I'll probably think about it again when they catch him, but right now
it's completely out of my mind. Just to get a piece of your life back,
you have to try and forget about it," he said, though he was quick to
note he will never forget what Thow did to them. "What he did to us,
what he did to me, you never forget that your whole life."
If Thow does not return to Canada voluntarily, it could take months or
even years before he faces a court in this country according to
extradition expert and former Victoria attorney Gary Botting.
In a recent interview, Botting said if Thow is arrested in the U.S.,
which has an extradition treaty with Canada, that country tends to fight
tough for the rights of its citizens. Thow was born in California and
retains his American citizenship
According to the Canadian Department of Justice, the decision whether or
not to make a request for extradition is that of the prosecutorial
authorities, who would have to conduct the prosecution in Canada. And
granting extradition is decided by the determining factors of dual
criminality -- whether the alleged offence is 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.
Thow faces a maximum penalty of between 10 and 14 years in prison per
And while there has been no movement on finding and arresting Thow, some
of his former clients have received good news as the Ombudsman for
Banking Services and Investment appears to have completed its
investigation and is prepared to recommend some of them be compensated.
The OBSI was investigating claims Scotiabank didn't follow proper
procedures when it issued loans to some of Thow's clients. Those loans,
to as many as 15 clients, totalled nearly $5 million.
According to the clients, many of them had little or no contact with the
bank. And while each story was a little different, they all involved a
line of credit or loan with Scotiabank from which funds were procured
and transferred to Thow and his numbered companies.
That money was never invested on behalf of his clients, but was instead
used to fuel his ostentatious lifestyle.
Those former clients claimed Scotiabank did not do its due diligence
when handing out the loans and they are now stuck with lines of credit
and mortgages hanging over their heads with nothing to show for it.
While the OBSI refused to comment on the cases citing privacy issues,
two of Thow's former clients confirmed they were contacted to say the
investigation is complete.
Brad Goodwin said he was told the OBSI will not be recommending
Scotiabank compensate him because they had inadequate access to
But Douglas McColl said his wife Olga, who said she had never seen the
inside of a Scotiabank yet ended up with a $75,000 line of credit after
signing a blank loan application document while sitting in Thow's car,
heard better news.
"The Ombudsman was quite encouraging when it came to my wife," said
"I think they are moving toward getting a settlement from the bank. At
least it's something."
According to OBSI spokeswoman Diane Bélanger when they do make a
recommendation the banks or financial institutions generally have 30
days to act. If they refuse --it has only happened once -- the details
of the case are then made public.