Michael Smyth: How did notorious tycoon so easily end up getting red-carpet treatment?
BY MICHAEL SMYTH, THE PROVINCE JUNE 30, 2014
That’s what the federal government is admitting now after last week’s column on Steven Law, a controversial Burmese businessman officially blacklisted by the United States but welcomed warmly to Canada this month.
Law was part of an Asian trade delegation hosted by Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, the federal minister of international trade. The trade mission travelled to Toronto and Vancouver, where delegates met with Premier Christy Clark and B.C. cabinet minister Teresa Wat.
Law is a “Specially Designated National” in the United States, meaning his U.S. assets are frozen by the federal government and American citizens are banned from doing business with him.
The reason: The U.S. Treasury Department says he was part of a criminal narcotics empire once controlled by his late father and he was a key supporter of Burma’s former military dictators, condemned around the world for appalling human-rights infractions.
Law does not face similar economic sanctions in Canada, but the government still admits it was a mistake to roll out the red carpet for him.
“Canadian immigration officials failed to do their job properly screening this individual under our immigration laws,” said Adam Hodge, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
Fast’s office is also upset Law was let in.
“The fact that this individual entered Canada concerns us,” said Shannon Gutoskie, Fast’s press secretary.
Steven Law’s late father, Lo Hsing Han, was one of the most powerful heroin dealers in the world. According to The Economist magazine, he specialized in peddling ultra-pure “China White” heroin, all with the approval of the former military junta that ruthlessly ruled Burma.
“Lo Hsing Han, known as the ‘Godfather of Heroin,’ has been one of the world’s key heroin traffickers dating back to the early 1970s,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in 2010 statement.
“Steven Law joined his father’s drug empire in the 1990s and has since become one of the wealthiest individuals in Burma.”
Law arrived in Canada on June 1, travelling with the official Burmese delegation. He attended official events in Toronto and a luncheon in Vancouver hosted by Teresa Wat, B.C.’s minister of international trade.
The B.C. government said Law did not sit with Wat at lunch, but she may have met him at the event, which included representatives of 10 Asian countries. The government says Premier Christy Clark did not meet Law, though Clark did attend a trade-mission event.
“The province takes care to ensure it is meeting with appropriate government or business representatives,” the B.C. government said in a statement.
“In this particular case, the responsibility for identification, recruitment and vetting of the business delegation for a pan-Canadian visit that included a stop in B.C., resided with the federal government.”
Officials said Law came to Canada using his Chinese name, Lo Ping Zhong. He identified himself as representing a small mining company, and not Asia World, the giant and powerful business conglomerate he controls.