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B.C. man accused of stealing $200K in 2019 CRA phone scam has fled Canada, court documents say –



A former resident of B.C.’s Lower Mainland allegedly fled Canada after posting a $10,000 release bond following his arrest by immigration officials investigating a scam that saw victims send more than $1 million to fraudsters posing as Canada Revenue Agency employees.

Even though he is still believed to be in China, Haoran Charlie Xue, 27, was charged with nine criminal offences last month in connection with a multi-jurisdictional investigation into an organized crime group that began in 2019.

The details of Xue’s disappearance are contained in court documents filed in recent months as part of a parallel, ongoing civil battle over the proceeds of the sale of Xue’s former Burnaby, B.C., home, last assessed at $1.9 million.

B.C.’s director of civil forfeiture wants to keep the money as the proceeds of crime, claiming Xue is the real owner, despite the fact the home was registered to his father.

The RCMP’s Federal and Serious Organized Crime unit announced the charges against Xue last month.

He is accused of defrauding seven victims out of nearly $200,000, although RCMP claim the total number of Canadians taken in the group’s scam was closer to 70 and the amount they lost nearer to $1 million.

According to a copy of the charges obtained by CBC, Xue is also charged with using the stolen identities of five other people in order to commit fraud on behalf of himself and his associates.

And he allegedly posed as a man named David Franklin in order to rent a Richmond UPS box where victims were allegedly told to send their cash, police say.

‘You are just looking to talk to somebody’

One of the alleged victims named in the charges spoke with the CBC.

The Calgary woman — whom the CBC has agreed not to identify — said a man who called himself “Mark” called her in May 2019, claiming to be an officer with RBC in Toronto.

One of the alleged victims of Haoran Xue claims she was vulnerable when a stranger called her and persuaded her she was in trouble with her bank. (graphbottles/Shutterstock)

The 67-year-old said she lives alone.

“Sometimes, I think when you’re very vulnerable, you are just looking to talk to somebody, And when somebody calls, you pick up the phone to answer it, not knowing that you will face a problem with that person,” she said.

“And they are very smart at convincing you, that’s another thing. And there are people like me who get convinced. That’s my downside.”

“Mark” told her to send $15,000, she said. He appeared to know her address, directing her to a nearby UPS location.

The woman said she is now amazed a bank teller let her take out the money.

She also doesn’t understand why it took RCMP so long to complete an investigation into an accused who is now far beyond the reach of Canadian authorities.

No show for September 2019 hearing

According to the civil suit, RCMP began investigating Xue in June 2019 as part of a probe into organized crime groups posing as a software company, a bank and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees. It says victims were told to send cash and gift cards to mailboxes in B.C. and Ontario.

Court documents claim Xue transferred $1 million in and out of his bank accounts.

A CBC journalist visits Haoran Xue’s house in 2019 when he was first named in a civil suit related to a CRA scam. No one was home and a heap of mail was piled on the doorstep. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Investigators tailed him for several weeks and ultimately seized a cellphone that they said contained the names of victims and the addresses to which they were told to send specified amounts of money.

The RCMP arrested and released Xue in 2019. As a result of the fraud investigation, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) also began an immigration investigation.

According to court documents, the CBSA arrested Xue and then released him on a $10,000 bond pending a hearing set for September 2019.

The documents say he fled Canada around Aug. 15, 2019, about the same time his father listed the Burnaby house for sale.

‘A respected contributing member of his community’

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has issued a default order against Xue, who hasn’t filed any response to the director of civil forfeiture’s claims.

But Xue’s father — Zenggang Xue — has retained a B.C. lawyer and filed a response to both the initial claim and a recent application in pursuit of documents from banks, a real estate company and the CBSA.

B.C.’s director of civil forfeiture wants to seize this home, which belongs to Haoran Xue, a man charged as part of an RCMP probe into phone scams. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Zenggang Xue said he owns a successful propane exchange business in a city 1,000 kilometres west of Beijing and that he paid for his son to come to Canada in 2012 to obtain an education at a private college.

The father said he visited Canada several times and was impressed with “the local quality of life.” He said he decided to use his savings “to accommodate his son while he attended school, generating rental income if possible to offset the mortgage, to possibly retire at this property or simply sell it on the market for profit.”

According to his court filings, Zenggang Xue was spending his summer in B.C., in 2019 when RCMP raided his home while investigating his son. He said he was unaware of the allegations before that.

“Zenggang is a respected contributing member of his community in the City of Yongji, who never engaged in, or condoned anything, that is contrary to law,” Zenggang Xue said, in his response to the civil claim.

“Zenggang and his family earned their living honestly by hard work and by their habit of savings which is the only source of funds in purchasing the house.”

The father noted there is no allegation of wrongdoing on his part and called the application for documents related to the financing of the home “a fishing expedition.”

In May, a judge sided with B.C.’s director of civil forfeiture in ordering the release of the documents in question. 

The proceeds of the home will be held by the court until a trial on the merits of the civil claim is complete.

None of the criminal allegations have been proven in court.

Watch: CBC Marketplace investigates the CRA phone scam:

Who’s behind one of the biggest cyber-crime schemes in Canadian history? David Common travels to India to catch the fraudsters. 22:31

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Canada’s wildfires could cost billions, kill thousands if nothing is done: report – Global News



Western Canada must urgently address the threats posed by highly destructive wildfires or face deadly and costly consequences, says a group of forest and environmental experts from British Columbia and the United States.

The experts, including Mathieu Bourbonnais, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of B.C. Okanagan, predict devastating wildfires like those currently burning in B.C. will be “commonplace” by 2050.

The group has released a paper predicting billions of dollars spent on suppression and indirect costs from the fires _ as well as hundreds or thousands of premature deaths each year due to smoke exposure _ ifaction isn’t taken to address climate change and the “daunting” scale of fuel, such as fallen trees and dead vegetation, that’s built up.

“If you look at record-breaking seasons, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fire suppression,” said Bourbonnais, a former wildland firefighter from Alberta.

Click to play video: 'Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution'

Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution

Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution

“You can think about, if you spread that out over a couple of seasons, how may communities we could be engaged with on protecting watersheds, protecting drinking water sources, the communities themselves, high-value infrastructure, the ecosystems,” he said in an interview. “By doing that, we’re investing in a future that hopefully we don’t need to spend those kind of dollars on fire suppression.”

The group’s paper suggests creating patches of space in the forest that contain less flammable material, a strategy that can also boost the efficacy of fire suppression efforts, said Bourbonnais.

“Rather than crews responding to a fire with nothing but fuel in front of them, there are natural fire breaks, there’s old prescribed burns that help slow the fire down.”

Read more:
B.C. wildfire update: A pause in rapid fire growth but forecast remains hot and dry

Asked about the paper, the director of fire centre operations for the BC Wildfire Service said there was recognition of the work that needed to be done with communities as well as reducing fuel in the forests following historic wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018.

“I’m part of many different planning tables and discussions within this province and within this ministry on how do we do this better,” Rob Schweitzer told a news conference on Thursday.

“Through prescribed fire, through utilization of Indigenous traditional knowledge in use of fire, as well as amending our forest harvesting practices and the woody debris left behind, are all pieces that we continue to discuss and actually start to change policy and implement new strategies to help reduce that amount of fuel.”

Click to play video: 'South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire'

South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire

South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire

About 1,250 wildfires have charred 4,560 square kilometres of bush since the start of B.C.’s fire season in April, compared with the 10-year average of 658 fires and about 1,060 square kilometres burned over the same time period, Schweitzer said.

Three dozen of the 245 wildfires that were burning in B.C on Thursday were considered either extremely threatening or highly visible, including a 655-square-kilometre fire north of Kamloops Lake that prompted an evacuation order for nearly 300 properties.

There were 28 states of local emergency and more than 60 evacuation orders covering 3,443 properties on Thursday. Nearly 90 evacuation alerts covered 17,679 properties, where residents were told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, said Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations for Emergency Management BC.

The number of daily new fires has subsided this week, Schweitzer said.

Click to play video: 'Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires'

Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires

Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires

But higher temperatures are expected to contribute to “severe burning conditions” in B.C.’s southern half, he added. The forecast should bring more fresh air to the Interior, he said, fuelling a “short-lived increase in fire growth” but also aiding firefighting efforts by air, which have been hampered by smoky skies.

The service also anticipates some lighting this weekend, Schweitzer said, and crews are standing ready if new fires start.

Environment Canada issued heat warnings stretching across B.C.’s southern Interior, inland sections of the north and central coasts, as well as the south coast and parts of Vancouver Island. The wildfire service warns the combination of high temperatures and low relative humidity will make fires even more intense.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Northern Canada may be a popular destination at the end of the world – CTV News



In the event of societal collapse, researchers suggest northern Canada may be “habitable” and could act as a lifeboat, but that other countries are better suited for survival.

The researchers found that Earth is in a “perilous state” due to rapid population growth and an energy consuming society that has altered the Earth’s system and biosphere. They say that societal collapse could happen in various forms, including economic collapse, worsening climate catastrophe, a pandemic worse than COVID-19, or another mass extinction event, which the researchers say is already underway.

The goal of the study, published in the journal Sustainability on July 21, was to create a shortlist of nations that could host survivors in the event of a societal collapse, where civilization could start over. The researchers evaluated the land, how much was available and its quality, how easy or difficult it is to travel to the country, available renewable resources, climate and agriculture, to determine where it would be best to survive the end of the world.

Islands with low population density, particularly those with distinct seasonal changes, fared the best with New Zealand topping the list. Iceland, U.K., Australia (specifically Tasmania) and Ireland made up the rest of the shortlist where it would be best for society to restart after a collapse.

Northern Canada, while not on the shortlist, could act as a “lifeboat” in the event of societal collapse due to climate change and extreme temperatures, but survival would rely on maintaining agriculture and renewable energy sources to keep the population alive.

The researchers showed that the shortlisted countries had strong renewable energy sources, were in temperate climates, and have plenty of agricultural land and space for growth. In the case of Iceland, where suitable land for livestock is not in abundance, this downside is offset by fisheries and the island’s wealth of renewable resources, of which geothermal resources have already been widely developed.

While this may give Canadians living in northern regions a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, there are still zombie fires to contend with as climate change warms the north and shortens winters.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world –



The latest:

Health authorities in Thailand are racing to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports as the country reports record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.

Other field hospitals are already in use in the capital after it ran out of hospital facilities for thousands of infected residents. Workers rushed to finish the 1,800-bed hospital at Don Mueang International Airport, where beds made from cardboard box materials are laid out with mattresses and pillows.

The airport has had little use because almost all domestic flights were cancelled two weeks ago. The field hospital is expected to be ready for patients in two weeks.

The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighbouring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Get the latest on Alberta’s plan to ease restrictions: 

Alberta will be pulling back on requirements for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and quarantines, despite rising cases in the province. 2:05

What’s happening around the world

Spain’s head coach David Martin Lozano, left, is interviewed under COVID-19 precautions after a win over Serbia in a preliminary round men’s water polo match at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on Sunday. (Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 196 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.1 million deaths had been reported.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the number it had a week ago. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katunobu Kato told reporters the new cases are soaring not only in the Tokyo area but also across the country. He said Japan has never experienced an expansion of infections of this magnitude.

The World Health Organization’s Africa director says the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an “encouraging phase after a bleak June” as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase. But Matshidiso Moeti told reporters on Thursday that just 10 per cent of the doses needed to vaccinate 30 per cent of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have arrived in Africa so far, while 820 million are needed.

A health worker administers a dose of the Janssen Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Dakar on Wednesday. Senegal is seeing an uptick in cases, sparking worry among health-care workers. (Leo Correa/The Associated Press)

Less than two per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said. 

In the Americas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 66.6 per cent of U.S. counties had transmission rates of COVID-19 high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.

COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization said.

In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 33,817 new cases of COVID-19 and 303 additional deaths. The country, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, is experiencing yet another surge in cases.

In Europe, Spain’s prime minister said existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.

Spain, one of the countries that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2020.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET

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