A suspected Canadian pedophile arrested in Thailand has been under investigation in his home province of British Columbia, Attorney General Wally Oppal said Friday.
Mr. Oppal said authorities in British Columbia knew about Maple Ridge, B.C., resident Christopher Neil and were in the process of tracking him down when he was confirmed to be in Thailand and subsequently arrested.
"The RCMP had him under investigation," Mr. Oppal said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "The police were investigating activities here, activities involving young boys."
Mr. Neil, a 32-year-old teacher working in Asia for a number of years, faces charges in Thailand for having sex with underage boys.
He became the subject of an intense international manhunt after police identified him from Internet photos of a man allegedly abusing young Asian boys.
The man's features were initially distorted but German police technicians managed to recreate a likeness.
Mr. Oppal said he had conversations with Interpol last week when they were trying to track him down.
"The RCMP had received complaints here and so obviously we have an interest in what happens to him in Thailand," said Mr. Oppal.
Meanwhile, the brother of the accused pedophile says the family is relieved that he's been arrested.
Matthew Neil says he hasn't spoken to his brother, who was arrested in Thailand today.
Neil, who spoke to reporters outside his home in Maple Ridge, also says he had heard about possible allegations against his brother in B.C. but doesn't know anything about them.
He says he'd like to see his brother come back to Canada but understands that it's an international incident and there's a need for multinational involvement.
Matthew Neil says he'd considered going to Thailand to see if he could find his brother himself, but now that Christopher Neil has been arrested, he has no plans to go.
Matthew Neil says he has seen television news clips of his brother since his arrest and thought he looked tired.
When asked how his family is dealing with the news, Matthew Neil says you see lots of these stories on the news but never think you're going to be part of it.
The attorney-general did not elaborate on the complaints police here were investigating and the B.C. RCMP did not immediately return phone calls.
Mr. Neil, who once studied for the priesthood and taught briefly in Roman Catholic schools in British Columbia, was also a chaplain and counsellor at military cadet youth camps in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.
Staff-Sgt. Rick Greenwood of the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre in Ottawa said police must consider a lot of factors before they decide if Mr. Neil would face charges here.
"The investigation will isolate if there are allegations back here in Canada," said Greenwood, the centre's operations manager.
Mr. Oppal said Thai authorities have first call on prosecuting Mr. Neil, who was charged in Bangkok on Friday with several counts involving boys under the age of 15. The charges carry a maximum 20-year sentence.
"We would probably in due course, depending on what the Criminal Justice Branch decides here, want him extradited," said Mr. Oppal.
"But it's really premature to say anything at this stage because we don't know what process will take place in Thailand."
British Columbia would also co-ordinate with other provinces if complaints against Neil surface there, Mr. Oppal said. Canada also has a so-called sex-tourism law allowing him to be prosecuted in Canada for abuse committed abroad.
Sgt. Greenwood said under the Extradition Act, Mr. Neil has to know before he's extradited to Canada what charges he would face here.
"That's the challenge for us,"' said Sgt. Greenwood. "Once we can put all that information together, then the right decisions will be made."
Canadian authorities would also like to speak with Mr. Neil's alleged victims in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, he added.
"Whether the victims are in those or other countries, a proper investigation would be that we would want to interview them, which we do," said Sgt. Greenwood.
The work to identify and nab Mr. Neil began after some 200 images of child abuse surfaced on the Internet three years ago.
When his features were unscrambled, Interpol issued a public appeal to identify him. Mr. Neil left South Korea where he had been teaching last week and flew to Thailand.
Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Neil on Thursday after determining that he may have sexually abused boys in Thailand, in addition to accusations he abused a dozen Cambodian and Vietnamese boys, some as young as six.
"Christopher Paul Neil will be prosecuted in Thailand first," Col. Apichart Suribunya, in charge of Mr. Neil's arrest, told The Canadian Press in an interview from Bangkok.
"Then I don't know what will happen."
He said Vietnam or Cambodia might make an official request for extradition.
The Thai arrest warrant was based on the testimony of one boy who said he was lured to Mr. Neil's apartment in Bangkok by a Thai man.
The boy was one of three Thai youths, aged nine to 14 at the time, who claimed he had paid them to perform oral sex on him in 2003.
Mr. Neil has taught at various schools in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam since at least 2000.
He suddenly left his most recent teaching job in South Korea last week on a one-way ticket for Thailand as investigators closed in on his identity. Cameras at the immigration counter captured his image as he arrived at Bangkok's international airport.