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Fox Guarding the Hen House


Stockbroker probed by RCMP slips into the U.S. at night

David Baines

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rogue Victoria stockbroker Ian Thow slipped across the U.S. border early Thursday morning with a truck full of furnishings, according to RCMP.

Insp. Mike Ryan said Thow, who is under RCMP investigation for possible securities fraud and in the middle of a bankruptcy proceeding, pulled up at the Pacific truck crossing at Blaine at 1 a.m. in a Ford-F350 truck loaded with furnishings.
Behind him was another truck, also loaded with goods, Ryan said.

Ryan said the RCMP, which is investigating Thow in connection with millions of dollars worth of investments that he allegedly sold to his clients but failed to deliver, had earlier asked U.S. border officials to alert them if Thow tried to cross the border.

Ryan said he got a call about 1:10 a.m. and it only took him 45 minutes to get to the crossing, but by that time U.S. officials had let Thow through, apparently because he proffered documentation showing he is a U.S. citizen.

This, however, contradicts an affidavit that Thow earlier filed in B.C Supreme Court in response to creditor arguments that he is a flight risk. In that affidavit, Thow said that although he was born in the United States, the only citizenship he holds is Canadian.

Bankruptcy trustee Michael Cheevers said he had taken inventory of goods and furnishings at Thow's waterfront home in central Saanich last week.

When RCMP told him about Thow's early-morning move, he arranged to take another inventory and discovered that "items of furniture and electronic items, including flat-paneled TVs" had been removed.

He also noted that the F350 truck belongs to one of Thow's private companies, which is currently in receivership. That means he can't legally take it out of the country. "So as far as we are concerned, that's been stolen from one of the companies," he said.

Thow -- who has declared liabilities of $42.9 million against $7.6 million in assets -- has made a proposal to settle his debts. That proposal was to be considered by his creditors in Victoria on Monday.

Cheevers said that, if accepted, the proposal would allow Thow to keep his household effects, jewelry and other personal items.

However, if it is rejected, Thow would immediately be deemed bankrupt and any items he has removed from creditors would be considered stolen. In this event, he said, he would press for criminal charges against Thow.

It is highly likely that Thow's proposal will be rejected. Thow earlier told creditors that an unidentified benefactor would contribute $5 million cash as an inducement to approve it. However, Cheevers said he has seen no sign of the donor or the cash.

Meanwhile, Thow's bankruptcy lawyer, David Gagnon, is no longer representing Thow and Cheevers is not sure whether Thow will show up at the creditor meeting. "He hasn't returned our telephone calls probably for about 10 days," he said.

Cheevers said it is not clear that Thow has permanently left the country, "but I think concern is warranted."

Thow, 43, formerly worked as senior vice-president of Berkshire Investment Group in Victoria. He lived a hugely extravagant life with three jets, a $900,000 US helicopter and a waterfront home valued at $7 million.

He went on junkets to Las Vegas and on one trip ordered a $10,000 bottle of scotch. He also flew friends and clients to the luxurious West Coast Fishing Lodge, where he handed out $600 fishing reels to his guests and gave fishing lodge staff a $10,000 tip.

On May 31, he suddenly resigned from Berkshire. In ensuing weeks, five groups of investors filed lawsuits in B.C. Supreme Court alleging he had induced them to buy shares of the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica, but failed to deliver their shares or return their money.

The Jamaican bank is 75-per-cent owned by Berkshire's parent, AIC Ltd. of Burlington, Ont., but Berkshire denies it knew or approved of these investments. It also denies any responsibility for what it characterizes as Thow's "outside business activities."

Other clients have alleged he sold them what he purported to be seed shares of Berkshire and high-yield GICs, but failed to deliver the investments or return the money. Several investors, many of them elderly, have told The Vancouver Sun they have been financially wiped out.

The RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team and the B.C. Securities Commission are formally investigating the allegations.


Ian Thow takes flight