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Thow exit speeds up investigation
Deep-in-debt financier's trip to the U.S. prompts application for arrest warrant


Andrew A. Duffy and Richard Watts

Saturday, September 10, 2005

An arrest warrant is being sought for former Victoria investment adviser Ian Thow, who has gone to the U.S. with two truckloads of household furnishings.

The receiver for people owed money by Thow, Michael Cheevers, of Wolrige Mahon Ltd., said an application for the warrant has been made.

Cheevers said that under the bankruptcy act it is not technically illegal to cross the border. It is, however, not permitted to take assets out of the country.

Whether that provision of the bankruptcy act applies to Thow is something a judge will have to decide. But the nature of Thow's exit is enough to cause concern, he said. "It is unusual for people who should be attending creditors meetings to be going across the border like that," he said.

Thow left Canada at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, crossing the border into the United States at Blaine, Wash. At the time, he was under investigation for fraud by the RCMP.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Tim Alder said Thow crossed into the U.S. by showing an American birth certificate. With no charges against him, Canadian police could not ask for him to be detained.

RCMP investigators don't expect to complete their investigation into Thow until early 2006.

But with Thow leaving the country Alder said officers have an incentive to finish their investigation and go to Crown prosecutors to have charges approved, and seek their own arrest warrant.

"All this does is goad me to get something done quicker," he said.

Thow is supposed to attend a Monday meeting with creditors where he was expected to outline a proposal for repayment. The former senior vice-president with Berkshire Investment Group owes $42.9 million to 102 unsecured and nine secured creditors.

He has filed a proposal with the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Vancouver offering the sale of his home, about $500,000 in vehicles and other assets and $5 million he claimed to be getting from a mysterious benefactor, who has not materialized.

The proposal boils down to creditors getting no more than 50 cents on the dollar.

The creditors meeting, in Victoria, is scheduled to go ahead on Monday. But with Thow's recent exit, his creditors are expected to reject his proposed repayment plan and proceed with bankruptcy.

Katherine Ducey, a lawyer representing a number of people who contend Thow owes them money, said she expects the meeting to quickly progress to a bankruptcy meeting.

A formal trustee will have to be appointed as well as inspectors from the assembled creditors.

She also said Thow filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. last week and she isn't sure if that will complicate efforts to bring him back to Canada.

Thow resigned from Berkshire last May. Since then, the company has distanced itself from his actions.

Before his resignation, the 43-year-old Thow lived lavishly with planes, a helicopter, flashy cars, a waterfront mansion in Central Saanich and a Victoria penthouse.

But apart from the house, most of Thow's lifestyle was financed. Those loans are now being called in, along with other claims from people who believed they were making investments with Thow.

People ranging from retired school teachers to Alex Campbell, chairman of Thrifty Foods, are making claims.

Brad Goodwin, a Richmond man whose family invested more than $1.3 million with Thow, said he almost lost heart when he heard of Thow's move.

"I don't like to be negative but when he crossed the border and I heard about it, I thought 'There go all our chances,' " said Goodwin.

Meanwhile, at least one creditor has tried to take matters into his own hands.

On Thursday, a $100,000 dock from Thow's $7-million waterfront home was removed by a tugboat. It was returned after police were alerted by neighbours.

According to Central Saanich Police spokesman Jim Scott, charges will not be laid. Scott said the tug operator was hired to remove the dock by "someone who feels he has claim to the property."

"This individual who laid claim to the dock, who says it's his, he will have to support his case in some fashion to the receiver," said Scott, who refused to name the individual.

"We're not pursuing any criminal charges on this, but would pursue theft charges or possession of stolen property in the event any further attempts are made."


Ian Thow takes flight