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A B.C. man wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant and accused of "thumbing his nose" at the law by practising dentistry illegally and under unsanitary conditions should be imprisoned, a contempt hearing has heard.

Lawyer Brent Olthuis, representing B.C.'s College of Dental Surgeons, said Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court Tung Sheng Wu should be found in contempt of court for defying a 2003 injunction that ordered him to stop practising dentistry in Metro Vancouver without a license.

Olthuis argued a criminal, rather than civil, contempt conviction and a four- to six-month jail term would be appropriate for Wu, given his "systematic regime" to flout the court order.

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"On the degree of intention here, this is contempt of the highest order," said Olthuis.

"So we have a defendant who is at least subjectively — not publicly — deliberately thumbing his nose at the court's authority for years, (starting) in 2003 until a he stopped in spring of this year."

A complaint led the dental college's investigators and RCMP to raid in May Wu's Burnaby clinic, where they found unsanitized dental supplies and equipment.

The college shut the clinic down, and the Fraser Health Authority urged Wu's patients to get tested for blood-borne viruses.

The health authority has contacted more than 450 people who say they were Wu's patients. So far, all the preliminary test results have come back negative for infection, said spokeswoman Erin Labbe.

Wu was ordered to appear in court on contempt allegations in August, but he did not show up, prompting the dental college to apply for a nation-wide warrant.

A search of Wu's car that month indicated he was planning to set up shop again, possibly in Toronto, the college said.

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"Not only has (Wu) thumbed his nose, he intends to try to flee the jurisdiction and get away from the college's efforts to bring him to task," said Olthuis.

Olthuis said if Justice Austin Cullen, who is hearing the case, issues a fine rather than a prison sentence, the fine should be paid to the college because it has spent more than $130,000 investigating this case.

Wu remains at large, but college registrar Jerome Marburg said a jail sentence would send a message to those who practise dentistry across the country without a license.

"I think it's a strong signal to anybody out there who is practising illegally that this is not acceptable in Canadian society. You have to be competent to practise and you have to be accountable in case something goes wrong," he told reporters outside court.

"Beyond that, there is an arrest warrant out there for him and that will remain. People can hide, but they can't hide forever."

Marburg said the college has spoken to the Canada Revenue Agency and was told Wu had transferred "really significant amounts of money" offshore.

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A representative at the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario said it has heard no more information about Wu beyond what was reported in the summer, but it hopes anyone who hears of him will get in touch with the college.

Cullen is expected to hand down a decision next Tuesday.

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