Thursday, January 08, 2009
Yogi Berra is famous for many things, but the former Baseball Hall of
Fame catcher is mostly remembered for his sayings, including the
immortal: "I never said most of the things I said."
One of his other notable quotes -- it ain't over till it's over --
applies to the country's securities enforcement business. In short: Why
haven't the authorities been able to arrest Ian Thow, who was charged
with 25 counts of fraud last June following a two-year investigation by
the Vancouver RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team? Those charges
were laid against Thow -- the former Victoria-based senior
representative of Berkshire Investment Group, once part of AIC Ltd. and
now a unit of Manulife Financial Corp. -- after a panel of the B. C.
Securities Commission found Thow committed fraud.
The BCSC panel reported its findings in October, 2007, saying the "case
represents one of the most callous and audacious frauds this province
has seen. Thow preyed on his clients by offering them non-existent
securities and instead using the funds to support his lavish lifestyle.
He took their money and betrayed their trust. He has left a trail of
financial devastation and heartbreak," said the panel, noting that "Thow
befriended his clients and built trust with them through his
high-profile support of charitable and community causes, his show of
wealth, and his apparent close relationship with Michael Lee Chin, the
principal of Berkshire. Thow helped clients borrow money to make the
investments through his relationships with loan officers at Scotiabank
and the Bank of Montreal."
Later, Thow, who moved to the United States in 2005, was banned for life
from participating in the securities business and fined $6-million.
But amid reports he may be in the United States or has been to Jamaica,
he hasn't been brought back to Canada, though last June IMET said that
"for the sake of the victims, [we're] pleased that we're moving forward
with the court process."
So what's going on?
No one is sure, though the BCSC said that from its perspective, the
matter is concluded. "We had a hearing and we handed down sanctions,"
said Ken Gracey, a BCSC spokesman.
Calls to the RCMP in Ottawa (who referred us to the RCMP in Vancouver,
who then referred us to IMET in Vancouver) yielded limited information.
Sammy Wu, IMET's acting sergeant, said, "We are working on the proper
steps to apprehend him to bring him back to Vancouver to answer the
charges." Wu declined to comment on whether IMET knew Thow's whereabouts
or whether there are any negotiations to bring him back to Canada.
One of Thow's former clients said: "Thow's activities have hurt the
savings of a number of people, but there seems to be no one who will go
and get him. It's an indictment of the industry and the country."
Other regulatory organizations were also involved. For instance:
The MFDA, a self-regulatory body set up a
decade back, and which focuses on the distribution side of the
mutual-fund industry, reached a settlement agreement in a December,
2007, hearing whereby Berkshire paid a $500,000 fine and $50,000 in
costs concerning Berkshire's failure to conduct reasonable supervisory
investigations of Thow over the period September, 2004, to June, 2005.
OBSI. Some of Thow's clients were told to
seek the help of the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments
because that body can extract compensation. It's not known how many were
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