The Federal Court of Canada decided on Thursday to stay the deportation of Lai Changxing, the leading suspect in China's most notorious smuggling case who was originally scheduled to be returned home Friday.
Lai will be allowed to remain in Canada under house arrest in Vancouver, the court ruled.
Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson announced Thursday that Lai's removal is stayed "pending determination of his application for leave for judicial review and, if leave is granted, pending determination of the judicial review."
The stay order is an interlocutory measure and remains in effect only until determination of the application for leave for judicial review and (if leave is granted) the application for judicial review. Removal is the general rule, the Justice stressed.
The process could take months, experts say.
Lai, 53, was accused of being the mastermind of a criminal ring which had conducted, in collaboration with corrupt officials, the biggest smuggling operation uncovered in China since 1949.
He fled to Canada with his family in 1999 and launched a bid for refugee status but has been denied all the way up the Supreme Court of Canada.
Esta Resnick, a lawyer representing Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said Lai had exhausted all of his appeals. Lai's case is that of a common criminal fugitive from justice and nothing more, she said.
Canada's Border Services Agency had scheduled the removal date after a negative pre-removal risk assessment. But Lai appealed against the deportation, claiming the assessment result was biased against him.