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Bob Mackin

At the first Legislative Assembly Management Committee since the suspensions of the top two officials, the speaker, who chairs the committee, proposed full forensic audits and vowed to quit if the public is not outraged by the findings.

Very early in his tenure as speaker, Darryl Plecas told the committee on Dec. 6, “very serious concerns were brought to me about certain activities that were taking place within the Legislative Assembly. When I learned of this information, I felt a great duty to safeguard the integrity of this institution and be very mindful about why we’re all here. That’s to make sure that public dollars are spent appropriately.”

Speaker Darryl Plecas (bottom) vows to quit if the public is not outraged by a forensic audit of Craig James (left) and Gary Lenz.

Clerk Craig James and Sergreant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended by the Legislature on Nov. 20 with pay, until further notice. The RCMP had been investigating since the summer and two special prosecutors had been appointed Oct. 1.

No charges have been laid and the details of the allegations have not been made public. But sources tell theBreaker there was an allegation of corruption.

James and Lenz hired lawyers from the Fasken firm and public relations advisors from the Peak Communicators crisis communications company. James and Lenz claim they did no wrong and have asked for reinstatement.

Plecas said he is ultimately responsible for security at the Legislature and has a duty to taxpayers to pursue, with due diligence, any spending or financial impropriety. He hinted at other issues.

“[Taxpayers] would also want me to pay attention to the workplace environment and to make sure that people are treated fairly, etc,” Plecas told the committee. “And I can tell every single taxpayer out there: ‘Take it to the bank. I will be doing that every time. I will be doing due diligence.’ Call it investigation. Call it what you will. I will be doing that for every taxpayer.”

In response to BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak, Plecas was adamant that the investigation was justified and is so confident that he did the right thing, that he publicly put his job and reputation on the line. 

The twice-elected Abbotsford South MLA, who is a criminology professor, quit the BC Liberal caucus to become speaker in September 2017. At the end of July 2017, he stood-up to ex-Premier Christy Clark at the first caucus retreat after the party lost power to the NDP, leading to Clark’s resignation.

James and Lenz’s lawyers, Mark Andrews and Gavin Cameron, have not yet responded for comment. 

Listen to highlights of the Dec. 6 Legislative Assembly Management Committee meeting and read a transcript below.

 

BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak: I’d like to, then, ask some questions which I do not for a minute think impact on a criminal investigation. Those are related to the hiring of [former B.C. Supreme Court judge and BC Liberal Attorney General Wally] Oppal. I wanted to understand in what capacity Mr. Oppal has been hired. Where is Mr. Oppal’s salary coming from? Is it Vote 1? If it is Vote 1, under what authority was he hired? And maybe I might have a few questions after that, but we’ll start there.

Mr. Speaker: Well, Mr. Oppal is hired by the Speaker’s office, and I’m not prepared to disclose the details of that. He is legal counsel.

M. Polak: So he is legal counsel to your office or to you personally?

Mr. Speaker: To the office.

M. Polak: If he is legal counsel to your office, then there’s no reason the public can’t know about his hiring and what he’s being paid to do that.

Mr. Speaker: I’m not sure how to respond to that. I’m not sure that Mr. Oppal wants it on the record, of what his pay is.

M. Polak: Well, whether Mr. Oppal wants it or not is not really the question.

Mr. Speaker: Let me say this, because I know where we’re going here. You have one concern or another about my office. We all know that. We all know what’s really going on here.

Let me say this. I’m proposing that we have another LAMC meeting, and at that LAMC meeting I will give you a long laundry list of my concerns. I won’t be talking about the criminal investigation. I will talk about everything but the criminal investigation.

At that meeting, I will be proposing that we have a full audit, a full forensic audit, on the Speaker’s office — that is, my office — one on the Clerk’s office and one on the Sergeant-at-Arms office. You will get every detail of how much I spent. You want full disclosure. The public deserves full disclosure. Boy, are they going to get it.

I would say this — one more point I want to make to emphasize how important this is. I am completely confident — completely confident — that those audits will show that we have a lot of work to do here. If the outcome of those audits did not outrage the public, did not outrage taxpayers, did not make them throw up, I will resign as Speaker, and Mr. Mullen will resign as well.

This has gone on far enough. I’ve been reduced to a cartoon character. The press has focused on nothing but this issue since this first happened, solely on this issue. This is completely unfair. It certainly isn’t fair to a legislative employee, like Mr. Mullen. You all know that you are completely off base. Mr. Mullen was hired with a job description.

You also know, for the record, if I was really playing it right, I would add another $180,000 to my budget because I’m an independent, and I didn’t want to burden the taxpayers with that. So I’m asking Mr. Mullen to do two things.

Yes, I’m proposing we have another meeting, and I don’t want that in camera. I want all British Columbians to know. I want them to know what my concerns are, and I want them to know what Mr. Mullen was concerned about. I want that on the public record. I want everyone to know.

Again, I’ll emphasize: if there is one single thing about those audits — anything — that says there’s anything other than lots of things wrong, I promise you, I will resign as Speaker. That ought to be enough for you to say that I think we’re onto something here, and it needs to be fixed. And it needs to be fixed through the Speaker’s office because it hasn’t been fixed for years.

I don’t know what else to say.

M. Polak: Well, you could say this: if it’s possible for us to have a public LAMC meeting where you describe your concerns, and you either describe Mr. Mullen’s concerns or he describes them himself — I’m not sure what you intended…. If that’s possible without impacting the police investigation, why is it not possible to answer that question now?

Mr. Speaker: Because we thought, as a reasonable person would think: “Don’t be talking about anything so long as there’s a criminal investigation.” And if this hadn’t degenerated into a circus, which it is…. We’ve lost focus on what the issue is here.

All I’m doing is saying, as an elected official: “Oh, I think there’s something wrong here.” That’s all I did, and I’m being criticized for that. My office is being criticized. Previous Speakers have been criticized for not being attentive enough to the public purse. You will not be saying that about me at the end of my tenure.

I’d also say that the faster this audit can happen, the better. I’m sure it’s the wish of you and your colleagues that I get out of here as quickly as possible, so I’m willing to say: “Let’s make this fast. Let’s get this audit triple time. If this can be done next week, let’s do it.” Now, we know that it can’t be. I’m saying, let’s do this fast. Let’s not get back in February without any of this on the table.

This is also hurtful to this institution. We can’t be expected to run normal operations with these non-stop accusations of wrongdoing on behalf of the Speaker’s office, non-stop attacking of a legislative employee who’s simply doing his job.

I would ask you and everyone else: is there any one, single thing that Mr. Mullen has done wrong? I know what’s going to happen at the end of this. People are going to be cheering for Mr. Mullen, and they’re going to say: “Whatever you do here at the Legislature, don’t get rid of Mr. Mullen.”

M. Polak: Mr. Speaker, that may very well be the case. The challenge, of course, is that we don’t know. When we have asked about what it is that Mr. Mullen has undertaken, we are told no answers. We’re not given any answers. Far from making accusations, I am asking questions. All I have done here is ask questions.

But again, if it’s possible for you to schedule another LAMC meeting and in public provide, as you call it, your laundry list of concerns that you had and that Mr. Mullen had, then why is it not possible to discuss it at this meeting?

Mr. Speaker: Because, as a legal adviser would say, when I get into the details of that, I’d better be extraordinarily careful about how I say things. It’s part of why I was reading here.

This is an absolutely serious situation, and the last thing I’m ever going to be accused of is somehow interfering with a police investigation. I do not want any overlap with what’s going on with the police. I am not going to do that whatsoever.

I’m saying, and I propose, that this happen in mid-January. We have another meeting, and at that meeting, I will outline what my concerns are. And I am very confident that I won’t have to say it. All of you will be saying: “Let’s get that full forensic audit going.” What else can I say?

M. Polak: Just to be on the record, I have no problem…. In fact, I think it’s almost necessary for us to go back and take a look at the financials and how the offices have been operating — no problem with that at all.

But again, I haven’t heard an answer. Why is it that the questions I’ve been asking can’t be discussed, if you’re saying that actually they can — that these matters can be discussed in public? You’ve just said that’s possible, and yet I’ve been told I can’t ask my questions.

Mr. Speaker: Well, I’m not reading it that way, but let’s move on to Sonia.

[Green house leader Sonia] Furstenau: I think that given that you have committed to a follow-up meeting in which all of these questions can be canvassed, may I suggest that we actually have an important agenda ahead of us that we should be moving to?

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Bob Mackin At the first Legislative Assembly Management

Bob Mackin

A survey released Dec. 6 by a U.S.-based anti-bribery organization calls New Zealand the least-risky country in the world to do business. 

The new edition of Trace International’s Bribery Risk Matrix graded 200 countries, using data aggregated from the United Nations, World Bank and World Economic Forum, and found 82 countries were moderate risk, 59 high risk and eight very high risk. 

Trace found New Zealand had a total risk score of 5, while the worst, Somalia, had a 92 score. By domain, the best countries were New Zealand (opportunity for business interactions with government), Luxembourg (anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement), Sweden (government and civil service transparency) and Denmark (capacity for civil society oversight). 

Canada was ninth with a 15 risk score. Also in the top 10 were Sweden (2), Norway (3), Denmark (4), Finland (5), Netherlands (6), United Kingdom (7), Germany (8) and Iceland (10). Other notable jurisdictions included Hong Kong (14), Australia (16), U.S. (18), Ireland (19), Japan (26), Russia (108) and China (151). 

Europe was judged the least-risky continent, with a 32 average score. Africa was the riskiest, at 62. The average global score was 50. 

The matrix ranks countries on four domains and nine subdomains and addresses the risk that companies will be asked for bribes within each country, rather than the conduct of the companies or citizens.  

“The Trace Bribery Risk Matrix addresses an ongoing concern for companies doing business internationally: the possibility of being asked for a bribe by a foreign public official,” according to the organization. “Such a scenario can arise in countless ways, and the risk of it happening is affected by myriad factors. Confronting this complexity requires marshalling information about multiple facets of any prospective or ongoing business venture, including the people involved, the dynamics of the industry, and the degree of bribery risk specific to a given market, region, or country.”

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Bob Mackin A survey released Dec. 6 by

Bob Mackin

What do two mining executives, an event planner and veteran restaurateur have in common? 

They are behind an anonymous website opposing the NDP school surtax and the phoney tax notices mailed to thousands of Point Grey residents.

The B.C. Corporate Registry lists Jonathan Rubenstein, Brian Edgar, Lana Pulver and Bud Kanke as directors of STEP UP. But you won’t find their names on StepUpNow.ca, which anonymously solicits donations and personal information. 

“I am not at liberty to put you in touch with them, because they’re reluctant,” Rubenstein told theBreaker in a phone interview. “I do not have personal authority over the website, so I’m not at liberty to answer your question about what thinking went into that.”

Clockwise, from upper left: StepUpNow’s Jonathan Rubenstein, Brian Edgar, Bud Kanke and Lana Pulver.

Rubenstein chairs MAG Silver and is a director with Detour Gold and Roxgold. The Detour website says he has had direct roles in mining transactions worth more than $9 billion. Edgar is the non-executive chairman of Silver Bull Resources and was the CEO of its predecessor, Dome Ventures Corp. He is also a director of four other oil, gas and mining companies. Pulver is the founder of Eventzz and president of Events on Point. Kanke formerly owned popular upscale eateries Joe Fortes, The Cannery and The Fish House in Stanley Park. 

The quartet hired strategist Lauren Rowe of PlusMe Communications Services, who has worked on B.C. Lottery Corp. and Kinder Morgan campaigns. 

“The policies of the NDP government are oppressive, and counterproductive and, most of all, divisive,” Rubenstein said. “So that’s what this is all about. It’s not so much about the people, as it is about the antithesis to the NDP policies.”

STEP UP is officially the Society to Encourage Political Understanding and Participation. Its stated purposes are: to provide information about public policies and public issues and analysis about how they may affect peoples’ lives, families, property, rights, obligations and financial well-being; to encourage constructive discussions about public policies and public issues; and to encourage people to make informed decisions in respect of public policies and public issues and to advocate for specific decisions based on understanding. It was incorporated June 13.

STEP UP’s website states that it was “founded by concerned B.C. citizens who, prior to, weren’t politically engaged.”

But Elections BC’s political contributions database shows $21,470 in donations from Edgar to the BC Liberals, $8,500 from Kanke to the BC Liberals and $500 from Rubenstein to the NPA’s 2014 Vancouver civic election campaign. 

Before STEP UP formed, Rubenstein appeared on CBC Radio and CTV News to oppose the school surtax — a 0.2% levy on property worth more than $3 million and 0.4% on the value over $4 million — and to criticize David Eby, the Vancouver-Point Grey MLA and Attorney General threatened with a recall campaign. Rubenstein lives with his wife, Mary Ann Cummings — who he said is involved with the anonymous WakeUpVancouver group — in a 1934-built Shaughnessy house assessed at $6.27 million. He said it is now worth 12 times more than when they bought in 1988. The new school surtax will add another $20,000 burden on top of the $8,500 civic property tax bill.  

UDI logo from ScrapTheSpeculationTax.ca

“This is a tax which is being sold deceptively as a school tax,” Rubenstein said. “It is not a school tax, it goes to general revenue. It might as well be called the Site C dam overrun tax.”

One person who was not afraid to express his displeasure with the tax was former NDP premier Mike Harcourt. He told theBreaker in May that it was a “tax on a tax.” 

Pay attention to that man behind the curtain

STEP UP is the latest in a trend of anonymous anti-NDP website and social media campaigns. 

After the 2017 B.C. election, in which the BC Liberals lost their majority, the B.C. Proud Facebook group anonymously pushed for another election. Conservative operative Jeff Ballingall was later revealed to be the director.

The Hill + Knowlton lobbying firm registered the ScrapTheSpeculationTax.ca website and Facebook page. theBreaker found evidence that the Urban Development Institute was actually behind that campaign, which was allied with the anomymous Stop B.C. Speculation Tax Change.org petition and Twitter page.

theBreaker also revealed that the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners’ Association (whose president is Cummings) was behind the anonymous Say No to New Provincial Surtax on Property petition on Change.org. Westside opponents of the school surtax, including SHPOA members, discussed strategies with BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and were offered assistance from BC Liberal director of operations Kavi Bal.

Christopher Wylie (Mackin)

Mayoral candidate Hector Bremner, who finished a distant fifth place in the Oct. 20 civic election, was supported by billboard and Facebook ads secretly paid by developer Peter Wall and arranged by BC Liberal operative Micah Haince. Facebook removed anonymous ads that attacked NPA candidate Ken Sim the same weekend it shut down the anonymous pro-Bremner page. 

In a September speaking engagement at a Vancouver convention, Facebook whistleblower Christopher Wylie blasted anonymous digital political campaigns, because they hide from accountability and often trade in disinformation. 

Facebook, he said, “has created the degradation of our public forum, because you can’t actually see what happens.” 

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Bob Mackin What do two mining executives, an

Bob Mackin

A Lower Mainland real estate investor, whose company supplied steel to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, failed to convince a B.C. Supreme Court judge who was responsible for losing the BMW she bought and sent to China more than eight years ago. 

While Ms. [Shu E.] Liu has clearly suffered a significant loss, she has unfortunately failed to establish on a balance of probabilities the facts necessary to support her claims that the defendants are responsible for that loss,” according to Justice Christopher Grauer’s Dec. 3 verdict.

Liu ordered a 2009 BMW like the one pictured. (MotorTrend)

All of Liu’s claims were dismissed against defendants Westport Motor Cars, Wei Chu and Linsong Chen, after a 16-day trial last spring.  

It started with an ad in a Chinese-language newspaper in Richmond, offering help to send vehicles from Canada to China. Liu’s then-husband, Bing “Tony” Guo, looked into it for her. 

Liu eventually bought what was described as a gently used BMW 750Li for $240,000 (including shipping, customs and taxes) and sent it to China for her family to drive. Westport Motor Cars Ltd. found the vehicle in Missouri and arranged for it to be sent to Long Beach, Calif. and loaded onto a freighter bound for Guangzhou, China. 

“That [price] seems to be quite a lot, but I am told this is rather less than it would cost to buy an equivalent vehicle there,” Grauer wrote. “It did not, however, go well.”

Liu claimed she, directly and through Guo, made an oral contract with Westport for a $20,000 deposit and $80,000 payment for the car, and that Westport undertook to supply the vehicle, ship it to China, and arrange importation, customs clearance, licensing and delivery to Liu’s Chinese home. 

Grauer said evidence was clear that Westport agreed to secure the vehicle she chose, deliver it to Long Beach, recondition the car and arrange for its shipping to the Huangpu port.

“Did Westport also agree to arrange for the vehicle’s importation into China, licensing and delivery to Ms. Liu at her home in China? I am unable to find that it did.”

Liu’s BMW was among several used imported vehicles that were impounded and confiscated by the Chinese government after arrival in Guangzhou on Sept. 10, 2010. Liu, who does not drive, got nothing for her money. 

“All parties deny having anything to do with that, and the documentation is remarkably sparse. It is a mystery.”

Liu alleged that Westport, its representative, Linsong Chen, and Wei “Steven” Chu, who was involved in the importation, were responsible. The defendants claimed that Liu and Guo arranged importation on their own. 

Liu, 66, immigrated to Canada in 2006 and transferred her business interests to her adult children after she arrived. She continued to visit China frequently, “where she has several automobiles, including a Bentley and a Porsche. But she had a particular fondness for big BMWs, in which she could be comfortably driven.”

In the verdict, she is described as a Lower Mainland real estate investor with her friend, Yong Hong “Juliette” Zhang. 

“When things went wrong in China, Ms. Liu sought the assistance of her cousin, Xusheng Liu, a retired judge of the enforcement division of the Intermediate People’s Court of Laizhou City in Shandong Province.”

Westport owner Todd Macdonald and salesman Cornelis Bobeldijk testified, but it was Linsong Chen, “the only Mandarin-speaker, who dealt directly with Ms. Liu and Guo.  Ms. Liu and Mr. Guo maintain that Mr. Chen made a number of representations on behalf of Westport upon which they relied.”

Chu, who became a defendant in November 2016, had successfully imported into China a used Porsche Cayenne that he purchased from Westport in 2007. In 2010, he assisted Liu in paying the equivalent of $130,000 in Chinese customs and import duties for her BMW.

Grauer wrote that much of the evidence is missing, including documents about the BMW that were contained in a safe stolen from Liu’s home in 2014. Westport closed in early 2012 and did not keep email records after its web domain expired in 2014. 

Xusheng Liu investigated what happened to Liu’s BMW in China, and corresponded with another man named Chu. Xusheng Liu said his computer crashed and he could only restore emails that he had sent.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

“He has no record of emails he received (not even as part of the chain leading to his reply), a fact the defendants say is highly suspicious.”

Chu produced many bank records, but not all relevant ones. Many documents were translated from Chinese to English more than once by different translators, with different results, Grauer wrote. 

Xusheng Liu discovered that the Intermediate People’s Court of Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province, convicted eight Han Chinese (all of whom had confessed their guilt) for smuggling items banned for import and export on Dec. 5, 2012. A used BMW 750 with the same vehicle identification number as Liu’s was among the vehicles seized. 

Lawyers for Westport failed to have the Jinhua City court judgment deemed inadmissible; Grauer admitted it for proof of the seizure, but not as proof of the truth of findings.

Importation of used vehicles is generally banned in China, with some exceptions for foreigners working in China. 

Chu, who became a lawyer in China in 1992, had his studies at Northwestern University in Illinois sponsored by a Chinese state-owned metals company. He passed the New York bar exam in 1998 and came to Canada two years later. 

“As Mr. Chu explained it, the president of that company, through the overarching Chinese Communist Party National Asset Management Committee, was close to the president of another state-owned company in Tianjin who had a relative in Tianjin Customs. Through their companies, both presidents wished to buy some luxury automobiles to bring into China, and, as the heads of state-owned enterprises, apparently did not need to worry about import regulations.”

When Chu imported the Porsche Cayenne, the car arrived in Tianjin and became subject to supervision for a year while it remained in the name of another person. Grauer explained that supervision was intended to discourage importation of used cars for resale, as opposed to personal use. After one year, it was transferred into Chu’s name.

“From what I can piece together, a similar process was followed (or at least was intended) for Ms. Liu’s BMW.”

Generally, China does not allow the importation of used cars. An exception applied until July 2010 for resident staff in Chinese offices of overseas companies or overseas Chinese who are long-term, but temporary. Afterward, importation was only allowed for government representatives, high-level personnel and specially invited experts, Grauer wrote.

When Liu’s BMW was shipped to China, the customs document was issued by Yiwu Customs in the name of a Pakistani national named Mr. Ali from Youni International Trading. When it arrived, Huangpu Customs issued an invoice in the name of Ali, ultimately paid through Chu, for the equivalent of $140,000.

The Jinhua City judgment states that, according to confessions, 124 approval forms were obtained from Yiwu Customs under false pretences purporting to be issued to the representatives of foreign businesses, including Youni International Trading. 

 “Xusheng Liu testified that notices were subsequently issued advertising auctions of the seized vehicles on behalf of the People’s Procuratorate of Jinhua. He said that he saw a BMW 750, black with an orange interior (matching Ms. Liu’s description), in the auction yard. He did not know the VIN. He thought that the vehicle was sold for parts, although the evidence of its ultimate fate is unclear.”

Grauer ruled, on balance of probabilities, that Liu’s BMW had been seized and disposed by customs.  

“Whether it was sold for parts, or currently graces the garage of someone in China not related to Ms. Liu, does not really matter. I am satisfied that it did not find its way to Ms. Liu.”

City of Richmond records indicate that a person named Shu E. Liu was the owner of a house on Lancing Road that was cited for an illegal suite in September 2011.

In 2016, when the house was under different owners, the Vancouver Sun reported it was used as a “baby hotel” for pregnant women from China and Richmond bylaw inspectors later shut down an illegal hostel for tourists. 

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Bob Mackin A Lower Mainland real estate investor,

Bob Mackin

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that a Chinese-Canadian real estate investor was defamed on the WeChat social media platform, but she awarded him only $1 in damages.

In her written judgment, Justice Neena Sharma slammed Miaofei Pan for paucity of evidence and his lack of candour with the court. Pan had claimed $360,000 to $450,000 in damages because he said his reputation had been harmed and the stories caused him depression and anxiety.

“From my purview as the trial judge, and exclusive fact-finder, the plaintiff demonstrated on a number of occasions throughout his testimony an attitude that he should not have to answer to the defendant, and indirectly to this court, about his business affairs,” Sharma wrote in the Nov. 30 verdict. “That combined with his decision to rely purely on deemed falsity of the defamatory statements rather than backing up his testimony with documents, strongly confirmed my disinclination to find the plaintiff credible or reliable.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shaking hands with Miaofei Pan at a 2016 Liberal fundraiser (Wenzhou government)

Pan sued journalist Bing Chen Gao, who wrote 10 articles in December 2016 and January 2017 about Pan under the pen name Hebian Huang. Gao, who works at Canadian City Press, used the pseudonym because he believed the Chinese government was behind the cancellation of WeChat accounts in his own name.

Gao’s reporting had accused Pan of buying seats on the boards of Chinese expat societies, owing millions of dollars worth of taxes in China and stiffing hundreds of families in a failed real estate development in China. Sharma found two of the 10 articles were defamatory and ordered them removed from Gao’s website, but she rejected Pan’s application for a permanent injunction against Gao.

During the 11-day trial, Gao represented himself in court, while Pan retained three lawyers from the same firm.

Gao, she wrote, was reporting on matters of public interest and importance, without malice, but in a genuine search for truth. He could not, however, rely on the responsible communication defence because he never tried to contact Pan for his side of the story.

Sharma had grave concerns about Pan’s credibility and approached his testimony with great caution. She pinpointed his unproven allegation that Gao was motivated by blackmail. 

“The plaintiff made an assertion without any corroboration and, although in contact with and originally intending to call as a witness someone who apparently could corroborate his testimony, that witness was not called. In my view, it is appropriate to draw an adverse inference that had that witness been called, he would not have supported the plaintiff’s testimony.”

She accepted Gao’s testimony that he never tried to blackmail anyone.

“I accept his testimony that he believes himself to be an honest journalist trying to expose wrongdoing in the Chinese-Canadian community. In other words, I do not accept that he had any kind of animus towards the plaintiff personally.”

Pan moved to Canada 11 years ago and is a past president of the Wenzhou Friendship Society and Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, both organizations allied to the Chinese government. He is married and has two sets of twin daughters. 

Miaofei Pan, second from left, and his family welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to their mansion for a 2016 Liberal fundraiser. (Wenzhou government)

At one of his Vancouver mansions in November 2016, Pan hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and 80 guests for a $1,500-per-person, Liberal Party cash-for-access fundraiser. Pan’s Shaughnessy heritage mansion was severely damaged in an October 2017 arson fire. Nobody has been charged.

Sharma was not satisfied that Pan suffered any harm to his reputation. “Even after he chose to resign as president of the Wenzhou Society, many people wanted him to remain as the  ‘honourary’ president. This was in February 2017 after publication of all 10 articles.”

The verdict said that Pan denied he under-reported his income as $30,000 in order to be eligible for the Canada Child Tax Benefit. Pan, however, acknowledged in court that “for some years his household income would have made him eligible for the CTB, but he testified that he did not collect it because he had ample savings. That change in testimony only came about because mid-trial I ordered the plaintiff to produce his income tax returns, which, remarkably, he had failed to do throughout the litigation.”

Pan testified that he sold 100% of the shares of Wenzhou City Linyang Estate Company to Zufan Zheng and had no involvement in the Huachen Yipin real estate development in China after 2006. The project eventually ran out of capital and Zheng was detained by local police. Pan’s name continued to be listed on the share register after 2006 by the Industrial and Commercial Administration Bureau in China.

“I understood the plaintiff to mean that somehow the tax authority understood and accepted that the share registry was not accurate. He maintained that he had no involvement with the Linyang Company or the Project since 2006,” Sharma wrote. 

“None of that evidence was given during his direct-examination. During cross-examination the plaintiff explained that he did not think it was ‘necessary’ to mention why his name might still appear on the share registry as a shareholder in the Linyang Company during his direct testimony.”

Journalist Bing Chen Gao (Facebook)

Sharma’s judgment said Pan denied Gao’s report that he and wife Winhuan Yuang owed the equivalent of $8.3 million in taxes in China. Pan testified it was possible one of the companies he used to own did not pay all of its taxes. 

Pan was executive chairman of CACA from 2012 until 2014 and served two terms as president of the Wenzhou Society from 2011 to 2017. The court heard he loaned $400,000 to the society in 2011 and donated $400,000 in 2012 for its Richmond clubhouse. He also testified that he spent more than $50,000 of his own money on CACA. 

The Wenzhou Society was accused before the Oct. 20 municipal elections of using WeChat to offer a “transportation subsidy” to vote for society-endorsed candidates in Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver. Richmond RCMP said it found no evidence of vote buying, but it would continue to investigate.

Sharma wrote that neither Pan nor Gao speak speak English, so their testimony was translated from Mandarin by the same interpreter that had been hired by the plaintiff.

Gao was fired from writing a column in the Global Chinese Press newspaper in 2016 after Gao criticized China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, for lashing out at reporters asking about human rights during an Ottawa news conference.

Pan called three witnesses: former Zhejiang United Friendship Society president Daoling Liang; Wenzhou Friendship Society vice-president Suping Chen; and Pan’s chartered accountant Allan Zhang. Gao called two witnesses: colleague and friend Ning Yu (Louis) Huang and former business associate Qi Bo Wang.

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Bob Mackin A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled

What does the ongoing investigation of digital dirty tricks have in common with the mysterious B.C. Legislature scandal and the long-overdue inquest into a prominent police officer’s suicide?

They’re part of this week in review on theBreaker.news Podcast.

In London, a trio of Canadian lawmakers joined the Parliamentary committee investigating social media disinformation and fake news on Nov. 27. Hear from U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, the former B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner who is probing the role Victoria’s AggregateIQ played in the Facebook data scandal.  

Suspended Legislature clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz hired Vancouver law firm Fasken and the Peak Communicators crisis communications company to set-up a Nov. 26 news conference where they emphasized their innocence. Meanwhile, Speaker Darryl Plecas issued a statement to defend his duty to report concerns to police and conduct his own due diligence. “The Legislative Assembly has a right to protect the integrity of the institution,” Plecas wrote.

In Burnaby, a B.C. Coroner’s Court heard testimony over three days about the 2013 suicide of RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre and the jury issued five mental health-related recommendations to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on Nov. 29. Hear from Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for the mother of the late Robert Dziekanski, who attended the fact-finding hearings to support Lemaitre’s widow. 

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines. 

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Ronjot Singh Dhami outside court in Brampton, Ont.

Bob Mackin

One of three men who beat an autistic man at a bus terminal near a Mississauga, Ont. mall was released from custody Nov. 28.

Surrey’s Ronjot Singh Dhami pleaded guilty in a Brampton, Ont. court to aggravated assault and was sentenced to a year in jail. He had already served 247 days, so the judge let him go with two years probation and a ban from being near the Square One bus station.

Dhami was captured on surveillance video with two other men on March 13 in an unprovoked attack on a 29-year-old man who was putting on rollerblades at the bottom of a stairway.

The judge accepted Dhami’s guilty plea and the joint crown-defence submission, because there was no evidence that Dhami knew the victim was autistic. The man suffered a broken nose and facial cuts. His mother told the court that the incident was “our worst nightmare.” Dhami apologized in court, but she did not accept his words.

Dhami turned himself in after a Canada-wide warrant was issued for his arrest. Police found Parmvir “Parm” Singh Chahil in Windsor, Ont. Jaspaul Uppal surrendered in Abbotsford.

Chahil and Uppal’s cases have yet to be heard.

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[caption id="attachment_7057" align="alignright" width="305"] Ronjot Singh Dhami

Bob Mackin

In the final months of his life, former B.C. RCMP spokesman Pierre Lemaitre applied to Veterans Affairs Canada for disability benefits. He could no longer work after February 2013, because of anxiety, anger and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the B.C. Coroner’s inquest into Lemaitre’s July 29, 2013 suicide, the letter he wrote to accompany the Quality of Life Questionnaire was entered as evidence. The undated, seven-page letter describes incidents in his career that contributed to his demise and offers a glimpse into the unseen workplace hazards of policing.

“I have for several years been suffering from severe depression, severe manic mood swings and anxiety attacks,” it begins.

Lemaitre described his 1991 posting in Bella Coola, B.C., where, as a constable, he was called to investigate the discovery of a woman’s nude body.

Pierre Lemaitre

During the investigation, he realized that he had had contact with the woman, who was often reported as a missing person because she had difficulty coping. Lemaitre wrote that he eventually located the suspect, whose confession “left me disturbed than an innocent girl could be victimized so violently and cruelly.”

The killer beat and raped the defenseless female. The autopsy revealed she drowned in her own blood.

“It seemed to me that this monster had killed a quiet and defenseless angel,” Lemaitre wrote. “After three straight days of work on the investigation, I was exhausted and empty. There was no critical incident stress debriefing. Years went by when I kept thinking of my first homicide investigation and how [censored] had died needlessly at the hands of an evil predator.”

During his posting in Cranbrook, he investigated how a possessive boyfriend threw his girlfriend over a bridge to her death.

“I saw the parallels at the time of another young woman, victimized at a young age, and robbed of her life. I couldn’t understand why the rest of society just carried on almost in a selfish matter, unaffected by the death of another human being. It seemed like the victim’s family and close friends were the only ones who cared. I keep wondering how she felt as she plummeted to the [censored].”

While working as media spokesman in Coquitlam, local children found a naked woman’s body face down in the Pitt River. A dozen people had heard a young woman scream around 5:30 a.m. “The woman’s voice was pleading for help, asking someone to stop. Not one citizen looked outside, or called the police.”

The victim’s mother reported her daughter missing, after she had been called in to work early the next morning, when it was unusually foggy.

“Every time I see fog, I keep having visions of a young woman’s silhouette standing in the fog. I see the silhouette fighting with someone, screaming for help as she is overpowered and dragged away… [I] can’t understand why this young and kind girl was raped and killed so violently. It will never make sense to me. Never.”

He recounted a busy summer of 2003 after he had been transferred to the Strategic Communications Group at regional headquarters in Vancouver.

Near Nakusp, several French-Canadian kayakers had overturned in a river. Their bodies never found. Lemaitre wrote that the father of one victim was consoled by one of the rescue divers, who had given him rocks from the bottom of the river as a token of remembrance. The father broke down and explained to the diver and Lemaitre that his adventurous son had always brought rocks home from all the places that he had travelled.

Lemaitre described the nightmares he had, of the kayakers’ voyage turning into catastrophe, their spirits leaving their bodies and watching the search operation from above.

“When I drive along the Fraser Valley and see Mount Baker in all its splendour, I keep thinking of how many other spirits are finding solace in the high peaks that seem immune to the conflict and stress below.”

Dispatched to the Okanagan during the wildfires, he wrote that a female reporter approached him and a female constable. She accused Lemaitre’s direct line supervisor of making several inappropriate sexual comments. The supervisor had suggested the reporter gained her story leads from sources while she was engaged in sexual activity.

“I felt disloyal having to do this, but our code of conduct and my consciousness would not allow me to simply brush her concerns aside.”

It came with a price. Lemaitre was transferred immediately and warned not to dispute the move. An internal investigation months later led to an apology. Lemaitre accepted a posting in Burnaby as the media relations officer.

The letter mentioned how he fled an Oct. 17, 2004 house fire with his wife. They both suffered non-life-threatening burns.

Back at Strategic Communications in Vancouver, and ready for duty around the clock, Lemaitre was called at 4:30 a.m. Oct. 14, 2007, and tasked to Richmond. A man had died after a 1:15 a.m. disturbance at Vancouver International Airport. He was later identified as Polish visitor Robert Dziekanski.

The information he was supplied about Dziekanski being violent was later disproven by an eyewitness video. The head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team refused to let Lemaitre correct the record.

“For weeks and months the media publicly accused me of lying and misleading the public. This affected me deeply on a personal and professional level,” he wrote.

“My reputation had been ruined and besmirched. I couldn’t watch the news, read the news or listen to the news on the radio anymore. Every time my phone rings at work or at home, my heart races and I get anxiety attacks. I get furious and angry in two seconds. I am extremely defensive with my co-workers and my wife. I don’t see friends anymore. I have given up my hobbies showing dogs, participating in motorcycle outings with a motorcycle club. I hate to go out in public. I hate shopping. I fear that people recognize me and point me out.”

Bouts of depression lasted weeks, interrupted by days of feeling on a high. “I feel super happy. Then I crash.”

Pierre Lemaitre at the Braidwood Inquiry (CBC)

He could not do usual household activities, shop or do errands. He was unable to work his regular occupation, or effectively participate in recreational or community activities. He was unable to maintain usual day-to-day family responsibilities or maintain personal relationships.

“I look after my wife who is physically handicapped and I have no patience for her. I fly off in fits of anger for no reason. It has put great pressure and strife on my relationship. I cannot do this without being on my anti-depressant medication.”

At the inquest on Nov. 26, widow Sheila Lemaitre testified that she had helped him write the letter about the emotional damage, bullying and betrayal he had suffered on the job.

“As police officers we see horrendous things and walk into family situations that are painful and we carry the memories and we carry the burden of the times of memories staying with us,” Sheila Lemaitre testified. “But Pierre was always able to as the vast majority of us do, walk away from those things, carry them, be a heavier person for it, on our brain, but able to get back on with life, and able to enjoy life and able to interrelate. Still, even though you have horrendous things happening to you, even though you have times when you’ll remember things and things will flash back, when you might have dreams about them, you might think about them.

“These were things that you kind of figure, when you sign up, you might end up being exposed to. What we have difficulty with is when we’re beset with, lack of a better term, attacks from within… it’s when you don’t have that internal support, that the people you work with are the source of that pressure and pain, that’s when it’s far more difficult to walk away from… that’s when life becomes difficult. That’s when Pierre could no longer pick himself up, that’s when he couldn’t get up again.”

Are you in distress? Help is one phone call away. 

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VA Letter Redacted by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin In the final months of his

Bob Mackin

Squamish Nation council agreed to an economic benefits package worth more than $1.1 billion to approve the controversial Woodfibre LNG plant in Howe Sound, theBreaker has exclusively learned.

The elected band council voted 8-6 in favour of the $1.6 billion project at a Nov. 21 meeting. Another meeting, on Nov. 27, included a presentation on the economic benefits agreement. A source showed theBreaker a copy of the economic benefits summary, that says the 4,300-member Squamish Nation stands to gain $225.6 million in cash payments over 40 years, averaging almost $4.7 million a year. 

A 422-hectare land deal includes the transfer of nine parcels of land in the Squamish Valley to the band for housing and economic development. Squamish Nation will also obtain five cultural leases throughout Howe Sound for cultural use.

Artist’s rendering of Woodfibre LNG near Squamish (WLNG)

The document does not, however, put a dollar value to how much the provincial government, WLNG and pipeline company FortisBC are each contributing to the band under the agreement. Representatives of the B.C. energy, mines and petroleum resources ministry and the two companies have not yet responded for comment. 

The deal also includes:

  • $872.4 million in contracts available to qualified Squamish Nation businesses and Squamish Nation member businesses;
  • $16.1 million in employment opportunities, including training, education upgrades and preferential employment for Squamish Nation members for an estimated 1,600 construction phase and 330 operations phase jobs;
  • $3 million in cultural and environmental legacies.

The nation has an option to buy 5% equity in the project. If employee housing is required, the land and housing units will be transferred to the nation for no cost.

The feasibility of providing natural gas from the existing pipeline to reserves in the Squamish Valley will be studied, as will the potential for providing natural gas to privately owned band lands in Squamish’s Valleycliff community. The existing Valleycliff pipeline would be moved to maximize potential development value.

The new 16-member council was sworn-in last April. Half of the councillors were newly elected in late 2017. No referendum is planned on the project, but that could become a point of discussion at the Dec. 2 annual general meeting of the band in North Vancouver.

Squamish Nation conducted its own environmental assessment in 2015 and issued a 25-point ultimatum to the company. That environmental assessment report has not been published. Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna approved the project in March 2016.

The grassroots My Sea to Sky group that opposes the energy-intensive plant on the site of a former pulp mill worries that noise, light, air and water pollution from the plant and related tanker traffic will be detrimental to whales and salmon in Howe Sound. 

“This is a giveaway of public money and resources, to a foreign-owned company run by an iffy Indonesian billionaire,” said My Sea to Sky’s Eoin Finn. “This is scandal. That amount of investment, coupled with other giveaways to the LNG industry, shows that this government’s adherence to any kind of fiscal rectitude or achieving our climate goals is just hot air.”

Rich Coleman (right) and WLNG owner Sukanto Tanoto, holding documents the B.C. government refuses to release. (BC Gov)

In 2016, on the opening day of the BC Liberal party convention, the Christy Clark government said WLNG reached a final investment decision. However, more than two years later, that has apparently not yet happened. Though site preparation is underway, Fortis Inc. CEO Barry Perry told stock analysts Nov. 2 that: “They clearly have still not made their final investment decision. But our sense is that we’ll know a lot more in the next few months here. It’s getting close.”

The project faces another hurdle. On Nov. 23, Canada Border Services Agency ruled that a 45.8% tariff on fabricated industrial steel components would apply to LNG plants. 

The project is ultimately owned by Singapore-based RGE Group, also known as Royal Golden Eagle. The NDP government successfully won an adjudication to keep secret the agreement made in fall 2016 between RGE chair Sukanto Tanoto and then-LNG minister Rich Coleman. 

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Bob Mackin Squamish Nation council agreed to an

Bob Mackin

The textbook called “Introduction to Criminal Investigation: Processes, Practices and Thinking” probably won’t knock columnist Jack Knox’s “On the Rocks” out of top spot on the British Columbia bestsellers list. But one of its newsmaking authors is certain to cause the title some newfound attention.

(JIBC)

B.C. Speaker Darryl Plecas — the criminology professor emeritus from the University of the Fraser Valley and twice-elected Abbotsford South MLA — blew the whistle on the clerk of the Legislature and the sergeant-at-arms in what could be the biggest B.C. political story of 2018. Craig James and Gary Lenz are under investigation for undisclosed reasons by the RCMP and two special prosecutors. The Nov. 20 suspended-with-pay James and Lenz claim their innocence and they want reinstatement.

“Introduction to Criminal Investigation” was published by the Justice Institute of B.C. on Aug. 1, 2017 — days after Plecas stood up to ex-Premier Christy Clark at the pivotal caucus retreat in Penticton, causing Clark to quit politics. That also led to Plecas’s exit from the Liberal caucus and entry into the role of speaker.

Plecas declined comment. His co-author was Rod Gehl, who spent a decade with the RCMP and 26 years with the Abbotsford Police Department. Gehl is now an instructor at the JIBC and an investigative consultant.

“Darryl has substantial operational and theoretical knowledge, from his days in corrections to academia,” Gehl said by phone, explaining why they collaborated.

Gehl acknowledged that Plecas “has his hands full” at the Legislature, but declined to answer when asked if he had offered any advice in recent months. 

Gary Bass, the retired top Mountie in Western Canada, wrote in the foreword that the book “speaks to the operational application of the criminal investigation, processes, practices, and thinking.”

“More importantly, the underlying theories, processes, practices and thinking skills remain relevant throughout the career of a police officer and therefore this book will be of value to both new recruits and seasoned police officers,” Bass wrote. “The underlying themes of integrity, diligence, investigative thinking, tenacity, respect, and striving to do the best that one can do at all times, are just as important at the end of a policing career as they are at the beginning. I therefore see this book as having an enduring value to police officers at all levels and stages of their careers, and I am pleased to fully endorse it as such.”

The textbook is freely available online, under a non-commercial Creative Commons licence (which means it’s free to share and adapt, with required attribution).

What is the book about?

This is the long description for the free-to-download textbook.

Introduction to Criminal Investigation, Processes, Practices, and Thinking is a teaching text designed to assist the student in developing their own structured mental map of processes, practices, and thinking to conduct criminal investigations.

Delineating criminal investigation into operational descriptors of tactical-response and strategic response while using illustrations of task-skills and thinking-skills, the reader is guided into structured thinking practices. Using the graphic tools of a “Response Transition Matrix”, an “Investigative Funnel”, and the “STAIR Tool”, the reader is shown how to form their own mental map of investigative thinking that can later be articulated in support of forming their reasonable grounds to believe.

Chapter 1 introduces criminal investigation as both a task process and a thinking process. This chapter outlines these concepts, rules, and processes with the goal of providing practical tools to ensure successful investigative processes and practices. Most importantly, this book informs the reader how to approach the investigative process using “investigative thinking.”

Darryl Plecas (left) and Rod Gehl (UFV/LinkedIn)

Chapter 2 illustrates investigation by establishing an understanding of the operational forum in which it occurs. That forum is the criminal justice system and in particular, the court system. The investigative process exists within the statutory rules of law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and case law rulings adjudicated by the courts. Considering the existence of these conditions, obligations, and case law rules, there are many terms and concepts that an investigator needs to understand to function appropriately and effectively within the criminal justice system. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce some of the basic legal parameters and concepts of criminal justice within which the criminal investigation process takes place.

Chapter 3 describes the functions and terms of “evidence”, as they relate to investigation. This speaks to a wide range of information sources that might eventually inform the court to prove or disprove points at issue before the trier of fact. Sources of evidence can include anything from the observations of witnesses to the examination and analysis of physical objects. It can even include the spatial relationships between people, places, and objects within the timeline of events. From the various forms of evidence, the court can draw inferences and reach conclusions to determine if a charge has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Considering the critical nature of evidence within the court system, there are a wide variety of definitions and protocols that have evolved to direct the way evidence is defined for consideration by the court. In this chapter, we look at some of the key definitions and protocols that an investigator should understand to carry out the investigative process.

Chapter 4 breaks investigation down into logical steps, establishing a progression that can be followed and repeated to reach the desired results. The process of investigation can be effectively explained and learned in this manner. In this chapter the reader is introduced to various issues in the progression that relate to the process of investigation.

(JIBC)

Chapter 5 examines the operational processes of investigation. In this chapter we introduce the three big investigative errors along with graphic illustrations of “The Investigative Funnel” and the “STAIR Tool” to illustrate how each of these concepts in the investigative progression.

Chapter 6 provides the reader the opportunity to work through some investigative scenarios using the STAIR Tool [Situation-Tasks-Analysis-Investigation-Results]. These scenarios demonstrate the investigative awareness required to transition from the tactical investigative response to the strategic investigative response. Once in the strategic response mode the reader is challenged to practice applying theory development to conduct analysis of the evidence and information to create an investigative plan.

This chapter presents two investigative scenarios each designed to illustrate different steps of the STAIR tool allowing the student to recognize both the tactical and the strategic investigative responses and the implications of transitioning from the tactical to the strategic response.

Chapter 7 illustrates the investigative practices of witness management. Witness statements will assist the investigator in forming reasonable grounds to lay a charge, and will assist the court in reaching a decision that the charge against an accused person has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is important for an investigator to understand these practices as they allow an investigator to evaluate witnesses and collect witness evidence that will be acceptable to the courts.

Chapter 8 describes crime scene management skills. These skills are an extremely significant task component of investigation because evidence that originates at the crime scene will provide a picture of events for the court to consider in its deliberations. That picture will be composed of witness testimony, crime scene photographs, physical exhibits, and the analysis of those exhibits, along with the analysis of the crime scene itself. From this chapter, the reader will learn the task processes and protocols for several important issues in crime scene management.

Chapter 9 examines the interviewing, questioning, and interrogation techniques police use to aid them in investigations. The courts expect police to exercise high standards using practices that focus on the rights of the accused person, and minimize any physical or mental anguish that might cause a false confession. In meeting these expectations, the challenges of suspect questioning and interrogation can be complex, and many police agencies have trained interrogators and polygraph operators who undertake the interrogation of suspects for major criminal cases. But not every investigation qualifies as a major case, and frontline police investigators are challenged to undertake the tasks of interviewing, questioning, and interrogating possible suspects daily. The challenge for police is that the questioning of a suspect and the subsequent confession can be compromised by flawed interviewing, questioning, or interrogation practices. Understanding the correct processes and the legal parameters can make the difference between having a suspect’s confession accepted as evidence by the court or not.

Chapter 10 examines various forensic sciences and the application of forensic sciences as practical tools to assist police in conducting investigations. As we noted in Chapter 1, it is not necessary for an investigator to be an expert in any of the forensic sciences; however, it is important to have a sound understanding of forensic tools to call upon appropriate experts to deploy the correct tools when required.

Chapter 11 summarizes the learning objectives of this text and suggests investigative learning topics for the reader going forward. Many topics relative to investigative practices have not been covered here as part of the core knowledge requirements for a new investigator. These topics include:

  1. Major Case Management
  2. Informant and confidential source management
  3. Undercover investigations
  4. Specialized team investigations

Click here to read “Introduction to Criminal Investigation: Processes, Practices, and Thinking” by Rod Gehl and Darryl Plecas. 

Plecas, coincidentally, co-authored the January-published The Right Decision: Evidence-Based Decision Making for Government Professionals with Wilfird Laurier University professor Paul S. Maxim, Surrey Fire Chief Len Garris and legal analysts Mona Davis. 

“More than ever, government leaders need to make decisions in ways that are transparent and justifiable,” they wrote in the introduction. “Good decision making, we will argue, needs to be supported as much as possible by evidence, research, and sound information.”

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Bob Mackin The textbook called "Introduction to Criminal