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.
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.