A high-stakes divorce between a wealthy businessman and his wife who immigrated from China to Canada as a couple but left most of their money abroad is raising questions about the power of Canadian courts over highly affluent immigrants.
The acrimonious marital split has already drawn evidence of $165.5 million in tax havens overseas and revealed that the couple’s $3 million Toronto home has been only occasionally occupied. The family’s on-again, off-again residency in Canada has prompted a Family Court judge to ponder what power he has to settle the matter. “The only connection to Ontario is an encumbered real property and a bank account.” Some say it would be helpful for the Court of Appeals, where the case is pending, to decide on tests of Canadian residency.
Born and married in China, the couple immigrated to Canada in 2005 with their two sons, and with the goal to becoming Canadian citizens. Through immigration Canada, the mother and two children became Canadian citizens however due to the husband’s constant travel his permanent resident Canada status was lost.
The initial Family Court judge questioned how much real power he had in the case. He declined to confirm a divorce decision, leaving this up to a judge in any future formal divorce proceedings. “This case highlights the fairly recent trend of wealthy Chinese nationals who obtain Canadian permanent resident cards in Canada but keep most of their assets and businesses overseas,” said Sergio Karas, a Canadian immigration lawyer. He argues that the question of divorces and custody battles with international and immigration implications will continue to be of increasing importance given the diversity of our immigrant population, their ability to travel frequently and their continuing ties to their countries of origin.