by Allen Ai
Alleged smuggling boss and former entrepreneur Lai Changxing has been prosecuted for smuggling and bribery by the People’s Procuratorate of Xiamen on Monday.
Having spent a 12-year-exile in Canada as a fugitive, Lai was detained at Vancouver International Airport and deported in July, but only after the Chinese government assured Canada that Lai would not receive capital punishment.
Though Lai is believed to be guilty of evading government taxes worth billions of dollars, his lawyer argued that the Chinese justice system would not give him a fair trial, and that being returned to China would mean torture and facing the possibility of execution.
Lai was handed over to the procuratorate after investigations into his case concluded last December. Prosecutors said in a statement quoted by Xinhua that they had solid evidence that Lai was the mastermind of a criminal ring involved in smuggling and bribery.
Prosecutors also pledged a fair trial, adding that the rights of Lai and other suspects would be given due protection under the law.
Suspected of engaging in large-scale bribery and the smuggling of foreign cars, cigarettes, and oil since the 1990s, Lai invested heavily in Xiamen’s real estate sector in the 90′s, in addition to deals involving clubs, hotels, and other infrastructure projects.
In 1996, Lai brought professional football to Xiamen in the form of Xiamen Lanshi FC, and at one point also created his own cigarette brand.
Earlier, Canadian diplomats confirmed that they have had regular consular access to Lai. They also said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had raised the question of human rights in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing.
Differences also remain between China and Canada over the case of Uighur-Canadian Huseyin Celil, jailed in China 2007 for terrorism.