Andrew A. Duffy
November 25, 2008
Ron Black is frustrated. To be honest, Black is more than frustrated,
but he's a gentleman and frustration is his word of choice.
Black, 82, one of former Berkshire investment adviser Ian Thow's victims
who has lost his life savings, feels stuck and his small, one-bedroom
James Bay apartment is a constant reminder of what happened to him.
"It just gets bloody frustrating, especially since I would normally be
able to go here or there and do things like take trips but I can't do
that. I'm stuck," said Black who was forced to sell his house as a
result of losing his savings. "And every time I think about it, all I
can think about is what he did."
What Thow did was bilk former clients and creditors of more than $32
million before leaving the country in the summer of 2005 to set up home
in Seattle . From Black, Thow managed to wriggle $600,000 in much the
same manner as he did scores of other clients -- by convincing them to
invest in schemes ranging from buying shares in a Jamaican bank to loans
for Vancouver developers.
The RCMP has been searching for Thow for nearly five months. He is
charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000 as a result of his misuse of
former clients' investments and faces 10-14 years in prison per charge.
There has been no news from either the RCMP or provincial Crown counsel
on Thow's whereabouts, and neither group have offered any kind of update
on the progress of their attempts to find him.
And that's starting to eat away at a number of the victims.
"The whole thing pisses me off," said Black, echoing comments from a
number of Thow's former clients who in some cases are living on the
partial settlements they got from Berkshire -- 29 former clients got a
share of $4.1 million from Thow's former employer. "I haven't heard a
thing since I spoke with the RCMP in August.
"I mean I doubt I'd get my money back, but if he got thrown in jail I'd
at least have that satisfaction."
The recent stock market turmoil has cost Black even more -- having paid
his debts, he invested what he had left over in safe and secure
products, but even those have been hit hard by the global financial
"Having lost everything I had and living the way I am, it's just
frustrating," he said.
His annoyance will not be assuaged by the silence coming from either the
RCMP or Crown counsel.
"There's nothing new I can talk about at this point," said acting
sergeant Sammy Wu of the RCMP's Integrated Market Enforcement Team.
The only expansion on that answer he offers is: "That falls under the
scope of the investigation so I can't really comment."
It's the answer you get when you ask if they know where Thow is, what
they're doing to bring him back to Canada , if they are getting
co-operation from foreign police agencies and if they have had any kind
of contact with Thow or his legal counsel.
When asked if Crown counsel have been dealing with Thow or his legal
team to secure his return to Canada , Crown spokesman Stan Lowe was
"There are no negotiations to deal with the issue of a plea, we don't
negotiate with people regarding plea resolution while there are warrants
outstanding for their arrest," he said.
Lowe did say they have been in contact with Thow's victims and empathize
with their level of frustration.
"But we're at the point where we have done all we can do," he said,
adding they have to wait for the police to bring Thow in.
In recent months it's been rumoured Thow has been seen near his home in
Seattle , and that he has contacted some former clients looking for
The Times Colonist learned earlier this summer that Thow had been in
Jamaica this summer trying to put together a business deal with a hotel
owner in that country that was not completed.
If Thow is found on foreign soil, it could take years before he faces a
court in Canada as he will likely have to go through what can be a long
According to the Canadian Department of Justice, the decision whether or
not to make a request for extradition is at the discretion of the
prosecutorial authorities, who would 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.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008