Wealthy foreign student wants visa renewed after dodging customs
A window shopper looks at a display in the Hermes store in downtown Vancouver. On Wednesday, foreign student Xiaochen Zhao was convicted on a Crown appeal of bringing in $57,000 of goods by the luxury brand into Canada without paying duty. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
A “very wealthy” Chinese national who only claimed $710 in purchases but brought back $57,000 in luxury goods from Hermes in Las Vegas has been convicted and fined following a Crown appeal.
Xiaochen Zhao, a University of Victoria student here on visa, had her charges stayed earlier on condition of community service after a judge heard she’d likely be “inadmissible” in Canada with a conviction.
In a Wednesday decision, however, the B.C. Court of Appeal disagreed. It said immigration issues “must not divert the judge” from an appropriate sentence.
The court found the frequent traveller — a 24-year-old economics student and daughter of a wealthy Beijing businessman — had twice brought back undeclared goods in the space of a month in November 2011.
Various Hermes products, “including a handbag, wallet, shoes, jewellery, scarves, and accessories” — gifts for her parents, she told the court — were undeclared when she was caught after flying back into Canada.
Paying the court-ordered fine of $10,000 wasn’t the issue. Zhao, the court heard, was in the final year of her university program and wanted to remain in Canada to finish it — with the possibility of entering a financial career in the country. The conviction would have put her status in Canada in jeopardy.
“We are not faced with the limited adjustment to an otherwise fit sentence to avoid unnecessary consequences,” Justice Edward Chiasson wrote in the appeal decision.
“This case involves abandoning a criminal sanction that is fit and substituting for it a completely different sanction because a conviction might have serious immigration implications for the offender.”
The amount of tax she would’ve had to pay if the goods were declared was $9,000.
Border authorities also order her to pay $15,400, which included penalties.
The court noted whether Zhao is deported would be for immigration authorities to decide.