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Nearly 17 years after he first arrived in Canada, the alleged leader of the Shui Fong triad in Macau – a criminal organization linked to assaults and murders during a 1990s turf war – has been ordered deported.

But the lawyer for Lai Tong Sang says an appeal is still possible.

The Immigration and Refugee Board made its decision last week, but the judgment was not publicly revealed until Tuesday.

In his ruling, IRB adjudicator Geoff Rempel said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Lai is a triad member and therefore inadmissible to Canada.

However, he ruled that the rest of his family is permitted to stay in the country.

Mr. Lai's admissibility hearing was held in February in Vancouver.

It heard that Mr. Lai arrived in Canada as a permanent resident in October, 1996, alongside his family, when an immigration officer failed to check into his background.

It did not take authorities long to concede the mistake, which was attributed to an overworked employee in Canada's consular offices in Los Angeles.

In 1997, Mr. Lai's home was hit by a drive-by shooting. Evidence presented at the hearing said the contract to kill him was worth $1-million Hong Kong ($132,000). A Vancouver police detective told reporters at the hearing that Mr. Lai was warned about the threats to his life, but chose not to co-operate with the police.

The IRB also heard from several witnesses attesting to Mr. Lai's triad leadership. The witnesses testified that the triad took part in killings, as well as loan sharking, extortion and prostitution, basing some of their assessments on sources within the Macau police force.

Peter Chapman, Mr. Lai's lawyer, argued that the case was based on hearsay and should be dismissed. He also questioned why immigration officials waited so long to go after his client.

The hearing was told that Canadian government officials were provided with information on Mr. Lai's triad activities as far back as 1997, including claims by police sources in Macau and Hong Kong that he had ordered the killings of three rivals. Two of the killings were carried out, according to an affidavit sent to Ottawa by then Hong Kong visa officer Jean-Paul Delisle.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Chapman would not say where Mr. Lai is, or if he has already been deported. Mr. Lai participated in the admissibility hearing by telephone from Macau.

Asked if there is a possibility that he will take the matter to the Federal Court, Mr. Chapman said: "Yes."

With a report from Rod Mickleburgh

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