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China fugitive gets Canada work permit: report.

HONG KONG, Feb. 5 Kyodo

China's most wanted fugitive Lai Changxing, who has been living in Vancouver since fleeing China in 1999, has received a work permit from the Canadian authorities, a Canada-based Chinese media outlet reported Thursday.

In an exclusive report, the Global Chinese Press said Lai did not deny rumors in January that he was allowed to legally work in Canada and that he is looking for a job.

''I used to work in real estate and I have experience in it,'' Lai was quoted as saying. ''I hope companies in property development or sales will consider hiring me.''

The report said Lai lives like any ordinary permanent resident in Canada, except that he has to report weekly to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

China has been seeking Lai's return since he fled the country in 1999 so that an anticorruption investigation surrounding the alleged smuggling kingpin can continue. It has been reported that 14 people have already been sentenced to death in China in the 50 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) smuggling scandal.

Lai has managed to prolong the pre-removal risk assessment process by filing a judicial review. The assessment has to be concluded before deportation can proceed.

Lai is alleged to have used his trading company to smuggle some 50 billion yuan worth of diesel fuel, cars, petrochemical products and rubber into China.

Police and customs chiefs, Communist Party leaders and local deputy mayors were suspected of taking bribes in return for helping Lai's company evade taxes.

In 1999, a massive investigation into corruption led by then President Jiang Zemin took Lai head on, but with help from allegedly corrupt officials, he and his family fled the same year to Hong Kong and then left for Vancouver.

Canada, which does not have capital punishment, says it has received diplomatic assurances from China that Lai will not be executed if returned and convicted.

But Lai's lawyers have queried the integrity of China's justice system for its willingness to succumb to government pressure.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Feb 10, 2009
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