Nearly six months after a luxury real-estate agent was kidnapped, a police investigation into his disappearance has led to a suburban house north of Toronto where a cadaver-sniffing dog found a corpse buried in the basement.
Forensics personnel are still in the process of examining and exhuming the remains to determine if they belong to Jianguo (Tony) Han, who has been missing since Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, police confirmed Tuesday that the 44-year-old's abduction is believed to have been part of a ransom plot carried out by at least five people.
Mr. Han vanished in January from a palatial home he was trying to sell on Featherston Drive in Mississauga. The home's owner, 40-year-old Xiu Jun (Johnny) Fei, was also kidnapped at the time, but turned up six days later in the Don Mills area of Toronto, where Mr. Han had also left his Mercedes in a Tim Hortons parking lot the day before his disappearance.
Information uncovered by the investigation took police to the house in Markham where the remains were found Tuesday, but they declined to say what exactly that information was. Mr. Han did not own the home and whether he had any personal connection to it remains unclear.
"We're hopeful it's not Tony Han, but we are concerned," said Constable Thomas Ruttan.
Homicide detectives have taken over control of the case.
Four people face kidnapping charges and have been arrested in connection with the case: Senthuran Sabesan, 23, of Waterloo, Ont.; Hinthurjin Baskaran, 21, of Toronto; and two other adults whose identities have been made secret by a court order. There is also a warrant out for Guo Wei Wu, 43, who further faces an assault charge.
Mr. Sabesan was arrested in January, while Mr. Baskaran was picked up in June. While some of these arrests had previously been announced, others were not. Police have consistently held back most details of the investigation ostensibly to protect Mr. Han.
Mr. Wu is known to police from several previous charges, most of them related to incidents in York Region, an area that includes Markham. These include ramming a police cruiser with a minivan full of stolen goods, committing scores of late-night burglaries at various companies and stealing bags of cash from men after telling them he could have it exchanged into Chinese currency.
Mr. Han, an immigrant from humble origins in mainland China, worked out of a HomeLife Landmark brokerage in northern Toronto, where he specialized in helping new Canadians find houses. Among his listings were several multimillion-dollar homes.