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Sap Mui Vong (middle), wife of alleged Asian crime boss Lai Tong Sang, is escorted back to the hearing room after a break in an admissibility hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in Vancouver, February 26, 2013.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The Vancouver branch of the notorious Hong Kong-based 14K triad, accused of plotting to kill an alleged rival triad leader here, cut a crime wave through the Lower Mainland in the 1990s, according to Asian crime expert Jim Fisher.

Detective Fisher of the Vancouver Police Department said the local 14K gang had its own leader, known as "Red Pole Fighter 426," and took part in extortions, kidnapping, cheating customers at illegal gambling operations, robberies and assaults.

"I was also aware of them operating a thug-for-hire [business]," Det. Fisher said. "If you needed someone beaten up, if he owed you money or did something with your wife, you could call [14K], and they would assign someone to do it."

Police wiretaps also discovered a contract accepted by the local 14K gang to kill Lai Tong Sang, purported leader of the rival Shui Fong in Macau, who had been granted Canadian resident status in 1996.

The contract, said to be worth a million Hong Kong dollars, was initiated by the main 14K branch in Hong Kong, then engaged in a violent turf war with Shui Fong over control of loansharking and gambling activity in Macau.

Det. Fisher told reporters that Mr. Lai was warned about the threats to his life, but chose not to co-operate with police. In any event, the two warring factions subsequently began truce negotiations, prompting the contract to be downgraded to a drive-by shooting, which was directed against Mr. Lai's Vancouver residence in July, 1997.

The veteran police officer, who has spent most of his career tracking Asian criminal organizations, including three years with the Criminal Intelligence Service in Ottawa, testified Thursday during the final day of a deportation hearing to have Mr. Lai and his family kicked out of the country.

Nearly 17 years after a Canadian immigration officer mistakenly allowed Mr. Lai into Canada without checking his background, authorities are only now charging he is inadmissible because of his membership in a criminal organization.

"It's my belief, based on all the information I have, that Mr. Lai was the head of the triad society in Macau, Shui Fong, when he came to Canada," Det. Fisher said, outside the hearing room.

He said he was surprised to learn Mr. Lai had been admitted into Canada.

Earlier, Det. Fisher testified that triads are all about making money through criminal activity. "In my experience, they are a blight on society, and serve no other purpose than crime."

Although the three-day hearing, which included dramatic testimony on ordered murders, bodies piling up on Macau streets and a triad leader named Chipped Tooth Koi, concluded Thursday, Geoff Rempel of the Immigration and Refugee Board, who heard the case, warned it will be some time before he issues a decision.

None of the three witnesses called shed any light on the mystery that continues to hang over the Lai Tong Sang case: Why has the government allowed Mr. Lai and his family to reside in Canada for so long before taking action to have them deported?

Earlier this week, the hearing was told that Canadian government officials were provided with information on Mr. Lai's triad activities as far back as early July, 1997, including claims by police sources in Macau and Hong Kong that he had ordered the murders of three 14K rivals. Two of the murders were carried out, according to the affidavit sent to Ottawa by then Hong Kong visa officer Jean-Paul Delisle.

Also unexplained was Mr. Lai's absence from the hearing. He listened in to proceedings by telephone from Macau, prompting numerous interruptions by a long-distance operator who warned the IRB's calling card was running out of money and cut the line.

Asked why his client was in Macau, Mr. Lai's lawyer Peter Chapman said: "I don't feel I can tell you that, but there are valid reasons." When asked whether Mr. Lai is now living in Macau, he replied: "I can't tell you that."

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