One Man’s China Crusade

One man’s China crusade

Donna Jacobs
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, August 25, 2008

For Canadian diplomat Brian McAdam, it wasn’t that he had uncovered the lucrative sale of Canadian visas during his posting at Canada’s Hong Kong consulate.

Both Canadian and Chinese consular staff, he says, were selling visas to members of the Chinese mafia and Communist China’s intelligence service. The price, he heard, ranged from $10,000 to $100,000 per visa.

It wasn’t that reports he sent to his bosses in Canada — details on murderers, money launderers, smugglers and spies trying to enter Canada — were met with silence or mostly destroyed.

It wasn’t dozens of threatening calls — “Stop what you’re doing or you’re going to find yourself dead” — from Triad members during his 1989-1993 stint in Hong Kong.

What finally broke him down, he says, was “the incredible feeling of

betrayal from my colleagues. I’d worked with these people for years.”

“It goes to your very soul,” he says. “It is a spiritual crisis. It is a psychological breakdown.”

There was the day he got a phone call from his Hong Kong Police

Department source, who was wiretapping a Triad kingpin.

“What shocked the Hong Kong policeman was that the Triad member had phoned someone in the Canadian immigration minister’s office in Ottawa,” says Mr. McAdam.

“The officer commented: ‘With that kind of relationship, you’ve got a really serious problem.’ ”

What shocked Mr. McAdam was what the officer said next: The Canadian reassured the Triad boss, “Don’t worry about McAdam and what he’s doing. We’ll take care of him.”

And, says Mr. McAdam, they did.

Immigration Canada offered him a good new job in Ottawa. He returned — and found that his ostracism was complete. His 30-year career in Europe, the Caribbean and Asia was over.

That stunning moment of clarity shut him down, physically and mentally. After two years on medical leave, swinging between hypersomnia — sleeping 20 hours a day — and

insomnia, he says he finally did what his bosses and almost all of his co-workers wanted. In 1993, at age 51, he took early retirement.

Though bereft of job, he says, “I felt free of a horrible group of people.”

“Ill, depressed and unemployed,” he says, “I knew what I’d discovered was profoundly important.”

In his 850-page manuscript –working title The Dragon’s Deception — he writes: “I was mocked, demeaned and threatened in a hostile environment while dealing with some of the world’s most ruthless criminals. Staff in both Hong Kong and in Ottawa gave copies of my confidential reports about some of the criminals to the gangsters themselves, and that greatly put my life at risk. I received death threats for a number of years but no one has ever been concerned about my safety. The big question (was): Why did Canadian diplomats in Hong Kong and bureaucrats in Ottawa do whatever they could to destroy my work and myself?”

As he tells it, around that time, he was formulating the idea of a formal investigation to verify and enlarge his findings in Hong Kong. By 1995, a dozen CSIS and RCMP officers formally launched their first joint project: Operation Sidewinder

Concealing his ill health, Mr. McAdam supplied the team with

extensive documentation of China’s criminals and the Communist government’s ambitious program of acquisition, espionage and political influence in Canada and around the world.

The RCMP’s own more narrow investigation into Mr. McAdam’s discoveries — separate from Sidewinder — had begun in 1992. They probed incidents of corruption but limited themselves to locally engaged staff — not Canadians.

A seven-year investigation ensued. Seven RCMP investigators came and went. “As soon as one (Mountie) would investigate, they’d pull him off,” Mr. McAdam says. “Another officer would come along, start to make discoveries and would be pulled off.”

“I believe both probes (by the Sidewinder team and by the RCMP) had considerable political interference to shut them down,” says Mr. McAdam, “and it seemed to be coming from the highest levels.”

Mr. McAdam credits David Kilgour, then Liberal MP for Edmonton-Strathcona and secretary of state for Latin America and Africa, for his persistent letters. Mr. Kilgour sent his first letter directly to then-prime minister Jean Chrtien asking for a public inquiry — which Mr. McAdam had requested and continues to request. However, the government ordered an RCMP probe. Mr. Kilgour later sent letters asking the force to end its delays.

Among the RCMP officers sent to Hong Kong was a 26-year veteran, Cpl. Robert Read, who, in 1996, spent months reviewing and corroborating many of Mr. McAdam’s findings. When RCMP Supt. Jean Dub pulled him off the file in 1997, the Mountie publicly accused him of obstruction — a charge the RCMP dismissed. Supt. Dub fired Cpl. Read.

“They fired him to stop the investigation,” says Mr. McAdam. Cpl. Read took his case — the incriminating material, political connections between the Chinese government and Mr. Chrtien’s Liberal government, the evidence of a coverup — to the media.

In 2003, an RCMP external committee confirmed Cpl. Read’s findings. It found the RCMP “consistently demonstrated a reluctance to investigate” and ordered the force to rehire him. The RCMP refused. Cpl. Read sued.

Recently retired Giuliani Zaccardelli was RCMP commissioner at the time.

In 2005, Federal Court Justice Sean Harrington heard Cpl. Read’s case and upheld the firing for “lack of loyalty to the government.” In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case. Cpl. Read’s and Mr. McAdam’s stories are told on

The Sidewinder report supported Mr. McAdam. It went further: “They found that crime members with ties to China’s military intelligence had invested billions in Canada,” says Mr. McAdam, “in high-tech, in computer companies, telecommunication companies.”

A few days after Sidewinder’s final report was sent to CSIS in 1997, Sidewinder was shut down. CSIS disbanded the team and directed the investigators to destroy every document. Says Mr. McAdam: “It tells you there’s a coverup going on.”

The Sidewinder team destroyed hundreds of pages of Mr. McAdam’s research, his books and his reports.

“I trusted I’d get it all back” — he laughs at the idea of having to make copies to protect his material from Canadian law enforcement. “I never dreamed this would be the outcome — all kinds of material, just gone.

“The (Sidewinder) team leader was demoted after submitting the report. He resigned. And CSIS’s almost sole China expert also resigned in disgust.

“At least six investigations by the U.S. Senate and Congress, from 1997 to 2003, corroborated Sidewinder’s findings,” he says. “Though senior management at CSIS maligned the report as ‘rumour-laced conspiracy theory,’ others saw it as ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘years ahead of the curve.’ ”

Ward Elcock, who retired in 2004, was CSIS director at the time.

Since then, the FBI has named China as the biggest intelligence threat to the U.S., says Mr. McAdam.

And Canada, he says, is now known as “one of the world’s centres for Chinese organized crime and espionage.”

Last year, CSIS director Jim Judd testified before the Senate that nearly half of all spies from 15 countries who operate in Canada work for China — and consume half his counter-espionage resources.

Mr. McAdam says: “I feel better than I have for 15 years. I feel fantastic, tremendous. I feel back to normal.”

What saved him? “The love of my wife, Marie. I’d never be alive without her. She nurtured me and cared for me beyond belief.” And, he adds, determination. “I wanted to stop Chinese criminals and spies from trying to destroy our country.”

These days, although he’s never called upon by his own government, Mr. McAdam has started to do international consulting work on global operations — including Canada — of the increasingly strong partnership of Chinese intelligence and organized crime.

“I’m on a crusade,” he says. “I don’t know how to describe it any other way. I don’t think we should be selling our country to China.”

Next week: McAdam: China’s Top 5 Myths

Donna Jacobs is an Ottawa writer; her e-mail address is