Pubdate: Wed, 14 Dec 2005
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Adrienne Tanner, Vancouver Sun
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Court cuts his jail term so he can appeal an order returning him to
Vietnam -- his second since '95

The B.C. Court of Appeal has reduced a convicted marijuana
trafficker's sentence by one day to give him the chance to appeal his
second deportation order.

Quoc Ai Mai was sentenced to two years in a federal prison after
pleading guilty to importing 1,728 kilograms of marijuana from
Ecuador. He was subsequently ordered deported.

Because his sentence was greater than two years less a day, he
automatically lost his right to appeal the deportation.

Tuesday, a panel of three appeal court judges agreed the sentence was
unfair and pared it by 24 hours.

They found that while the difference of one day had almost no impact
on the sentence itself, it carried severe consequences for Mai, who
stands to be deported to his birthplace of Vietnam.

The judges ruled Mai should have the opportunity to plead for another
chance before the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

This is not the first time Canada has granted clemency to Mai, who
became a permanent resident in 1989 at age 15.

Immigration officials ordered him deported after he was caught in 1992
lurking in a back alley wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an
unregistered, restricted .357 magnum handgun.

A nearby homeowner had reported hearing shots fired and when police
arrived, they caught Mai with a gun tucked into the waistband of his
pants. There were six spent shells in the gun and another nine live
shells in his pocket.

His lawyer at the time said the incident was connected to drugs, court
documents said.

After pleading guilty to the weapons offence, Mai was ordered deported
in 1995. However, he was granted a second chance by the appeal
division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. Mai was reinstated as a
permanent resident in October of 1998.

A little more than two years later, Mai was once again in trouble with
the law.

This time, he colluded with Timothy Andrew Murray to import a large
quantity of marijuana from Ecuador.

"Containers of alfalfa were shipped from Ecuador to Canada. Hidden
inside the containers of alfalfa was . . . 1,728 kilograms or two tons
of marijuana," the appeal court documents said.

Customs officers conducting a routine inspection discovered the
illicit shipment, replaced it with a placebo and started wiretap
surveillance between Mai and his accomplice.

Murray took care of the Ecuadoran connections. Mai cleared the
shipment through customs and paid to transport the load to a farm in
Mission, police learned.

During the criminal court case, Mai's lawyers told the judge that
Mai's father was an alcoholic and drug addict and had left his son to
be raised by friends, family, foster parents and group homes.

Today, he is self-employed in "legitimate" businesses and pays $1,000
a month to help support his daughter, the lawyer told the court at his
March 9, 2004 sentencing.

Justice Brenda Brown ruled the appropriate sentence was two years,
effectively ending Mai's chances of a second immigration appeal.

That did not stop him from trying.

At an immigration hearing in March of this year, Mai attempted to
stave off what was soon was to become his second deportation order.

"I have nothing back in Vietnam," he told the Immigration and Refugee
Board member hearing his case.

"Like, I never seen or smelled it in my life. Indeed, I know I messed
up really badly here and this is my second time around in the courts
before immigration here and, obviously, you know, I've made some -- I
made a serious mistake here, right?"

The board member instructed Mai to stop pleading his case, stating
that with a sentence of two years, no appeal could be heard.

Immigration and Refugee Board spokeswoman Melissa Anderson said now
that his sentence has been reduced, Mai will be able to try one more

This is not the first time the courts have reduced a sentence to allow
an offender to mount an immigration appeal.

In March, the same one-day dispensation was granted to a Sri Lankan
rapist to enable him to appeal his deportation. In that instance, the
B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that Sritharan Kanthasamy, 28, a permanent
resident of Canada, would face "unintended consequences of great
significance" if it upheld a two-year jail sentence imposed by a lower
court following a trial in 2004 and reduced his sentence to two years
less a day. 
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