British Columbia is demanding the federal government explain why a money laundering criminal trial was just unexpectedly and abruptly “Stayed.” Prince Edward Island is not demanding answers from the federal government why the PNP Fraud trial was just unexpectedly and abruptly “Stayed.” Why Not?
Two equally “high-profiled” cases involving complex China-Canada back-and-forth movement of Chinese citizens were recently “stayed” by the Federal Public Prosecution Office within one week of each other – after years of costly investigations culminating in criminal charges and trials – with no explanation from the Federal government.
This is concerning. However, even more disturbing is the fact that Premier Wade MacLauchlan, and Attorney General, Hon. Jordan Brown, seem perfectly content with the situation regarding the PEI case, and have said absolutely nothing about it publicly.
Meanwhile, the Premier and Attorney General of B.C. have already initiated a provincial investigation into the matter, and are also seeking an explanation from the Federal government for their decision to issue the Stay. Why the different responses?
Islanders already know some of the details of the Sherwood Motel PNP alleged fraud case, but likely little or nothing of the B.C. money-laundering case, so a brief overview is in order.
RCMP’s Project E-Pirate Probe
Several years ago, the RCMP initiated an investigation into what appeared to be a well-organized money-laundering scheme that was purportedly “cleaning” roughly $1.5 million of dirty money for wealthy Chinese visitors each and every day.
When charges were finally laid on October 19, 2017, a Vancouver Sun article titled Charges laid in probe of alleged B.C. drug-cash money-laundering disclosed some of the shocking details obtained from a freedom-of-information request:
According to the allegations, a network of “private lenders” in Richmond lent cash from Silver [a casino] to VIP gamblers recruited from China. These high-rollers visited B.C. for gambling junkets, according to these allegations, and received hockey bags full of cash.
The RCMP documented significant transactions connected to gangs and organized crime, including at least 40 different organizations linked to Asian organized groups dealing cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Gangsters were delivering “suitcases laden with cash” to the casino where dealers could drop off $100,000 in cash in a suitcase, and then within minutes a credit for $95,000 would appear in a Chinese bank, after a five per cent fee was taken for the laundering and transfer service.
Then, without warning or explanation, on November 30, 2018, the federal government announced it was “staying the charges.”
As stated in a Globe and Mail article published yesterday (December 21, 2018):
“When federal Crown prosecutors stayed the criminal charges against Ms. Qin, Mr. Zhu and their company a month ago, it shocked the country and led B.C.’s Attorney-General to launch a review into what went wrong in the investigation federal Mounties had named E-Pirate.”
A joint statement issued by the RCMP and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office on November 30th stated matter-of-factly: “The nature of [the reasons] will not be discussed in any detail given operational sensitivities.”
The Premier of B.C., John Organ, and the B.C. Attorney General, David Eby, responded immediately, announcing their intention to undertake a provincial review of the matter, and resolving to get answers from the federal government why the criminal trial would not be proceeding [See: “B.C. to review stay of charges in high-profile money-laundering case“]:
“I am incredibly disappointed by the news,” Mr. Eby told a news conference on Wednesday, adding he is also looking for a discussion with Bill Blair, the federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, to review the matter…..Mr. Eby said that given the situation, he was worried about public confidence in the justice system.”
The BC Government is now attempting to seize a $2.5-million Vancouver home and $2-million in cash from the two individuals accused of running the massive casino money-laundering business despite the criminal case having been dropped against them by the federal government.
What exactly is a Stay of Proceedings?
A “stay of proceedings” should only happen in the most dire of circumstances, with clear explanations why it is being used to end criminal proceedings [although the case can technically be re-opened within one year, a ‘stay’ usually means ‘dropped’]. As the Supreme Court of Canada stated in R. v. O’Connor, :
“Charges that are stayed may never be prosecuted; an alleged victim will never get his or her day in-Court; society will never have the matter resolved by a trier of fact. For these reasons, a stay is reserved for only those cases of abuse where a very high threshold is met: “the threshold for obtaining a stay of proceedings remains, under the Charter as under the common law doctrine of abuse of process, the ‘clearest of cases’.”
The “clearest of cases” usually means cases where one of three things has happened: there has either been (1) a prejudicial abuse of process in the court proceedings and/or trial; (2) clear evidence of police misconduct; or (3) clear evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, such as lost or destroyed evidence.
Which of these happened in the B.C. case? Which of these happened in the PEI case? The public has a right to know, otherwise – in the absence of an explanation why such a decision was made – one is left to believe the legal system is, at a minimum, “ineffective” or, at a maximum, “corrupt”.
Why no Action by the PEI government?
It is very troubling that neither Premier MacLauchlan nor Attorney General, Hon. Jordan Brown, have made any public statements on this matter (as far as I’m aware) nor have they indicated any interest in finding out from the Federal Government – for the benefit of all Islanders – why the criminal trial initiated against two Islanders, brother and sister, Yi Zhong and Ping Zhong, was strong enough to result in charges, but then “stayed”.
An explanation is definitely warranted, especially given the fact that the Zhongs have a constitutional right to be able to “answer to criminal charges,” and they have been denied that right. They not only pleaded “innocent” when they were first charged with committing fraud, they have repeatedly stated they were eagerly looking forward to proving their innocence in court, and that they were very upset to learn that they would not be afforded an opportunity to do so.
They are now left to live with what can only be called a “cloud of suspicion” hanging over their heads. Their right to answer to the criminal charges laid against them is supposed to be guaranteed by the Charter:
“Anyone accused of a criminal charge has the right to know the case against them and put forward a defence. In addition to being a principle of fundamental justice, this right is also protected by the right to a fair trial under section 11(d) of the Charter.”
I realize it’s Christmas, and probably not the time to expect Opposition MLAs to be raising this matter with the provincial government; however, when the new year dawns, I hope someone within the Opposition publically calls upon our Premier and Attorney General to do what the BC Premier and Attorney General have already done: take decisive action to get answers from the federal government regarding why these charges were “stayed”.
If MacLauchlan and Brown refuse to pursue this matter, they will have a very hard time dismissing the already widespread suspicion that Prime Minister Trudeau has given the MacLauchlan government an early Christmas present by blocking public revelations of provincial government complicity in unethical and potentially illegal PNP program practices.
They need to do this not only out of respect for two Island residents – Yi Zhong and Ping Zhong – who were callously denied their charter right to answer to a serious criminal charge and have their “day in court,” but also to restore public confidence in our justice system.