A man who fought a 21-year legal battle to resist removal from Canada to face fraud charges in the United States went missing yesterday as immigration officials finally moved to deport him from Montreal.
The disappearing act prompted anger from a U.S. prosecutor, who called on Ottawa to find Alexandre Henri Legault quickly and send him home to face long-standing charges involving multimillion-dollar frauds.
"I hope a warrant is issued and that the Canadian government will step up to the plate and take responsibility and try to locate him," Jodie Breece, a prosecutor in Florida, said in an interview.
Mr. Legault is accused in Florida of being part of an investment scheme in which several hundred senior citizens were bilked of about $8-million (U.S.).
Florida officials had planned to arrest Mr. Legault at a Chicago stopover yesterday, Ms. Breece said, adding that Canadian officials told her they were going to remove the fugitive yesterday and send him to Chicago en route to New Orleans.
In 1982, the year Mr. Legault moved to Canada, federal prosecutors in Louisiana asked Canada to extradite him to face charges in an unrelated fraud worth $7-million.
Today, Mr. Legault, 52, is also a figure of interest in Zimbabwe, as he played a key role in the Mugabe government's move to charge opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai last year with treason. Mr. Tsvangirai says he was duped in Montreal by Mr. Legault. He is currently on trial in Harare.
Yesterday, Mr. Legault's long-time business partner Ari Ben Menashe said their company, known as Dickens and Madson, would continue to operate despite the absence of one of its founders.
"I have no idea where he is," Mr. Ben Menashe said.
"He resigned from the company, he transferred the shares, he said he was leaving, he didn't say where."
Reminded that Mr. Legault has no passport, Mr. Ben Menashe said he hadn't the foggiest notion as to how his long-time partner would be travelling.
"I was really under the impression he was going to go and fight the charges," Mr. Ben Menashe said. "But this morning Immigration [Canada]called and said, 'Do you know where he is?' "
He said his business partner had always said he was innocent of the fraud charges.
For the record, Mr. Ben Menashe said Dickens and Madson was a "squeaky-clean" business.
Mr. Legault never had any form of permanent status in Canada.
In 1983, he fended off a U.S. extradition attempt, and then asked Canada to give him protection on humanitarian grounds.