An Australian police informant
who infiltrated an outlaw motorcycle gang and later
became a refugee in Canada – believed to be the
first Australian granted asylum by a foreign country
– has launched a lawsuit against Canadian officials,
alleging that the drawn-out process of seeking
asylum left him in legal limbo for years.
The $2.55m lawsuit, filed
in Canada’s federal court in June, is directed at
the country’s immigration department, the Canada
Border Services Agency (CBSA) and two officers
involved in the file.
Bandidos informant granted
refugee status by Canada after cover blown in
Stevan Utah said Canadian
officials took nearly a decade to decide on his
asylum claim, a process that was initially hindered
by their failure to consider his case seriously.
“When I first came here, the CBSA not only could not
believe that a white Australian could be a refugee,
they wouldn’t entertain it,” Utah
told the National Post.
He fled Australia in 2006,
after facing attempts on his
life by the
Bandidos bikie gang.
Canadian officials accepted
his asylum claim last year, noting that Utah
appeared to have been abandoned by authorities in
Australia after his cover was blown. In their
decision, Canada’s refugee board noted Utah would
likely face “a serious risk to his life” if he
returned to Australia.
Months later he filed a
legal challenge accusing Canadian officials of
“pure, sheer incompetence” that saw his asylum
request stretch into a years-long odyssey.
“We say that was negligent
at the very least and as a result he has suffered
because he has been in this legal limbo, if you
like, for that period of time,” William Klym, one of
Utah’s lawyers in Canada,
told the National Post.
As he waited years for his
asylum application to be heard, Utah did not have
permission to work, open a bank account, obtain a
driver’s license or access health care, according to
court documents. Utah claims the situation left him
battling post-traumatic stress disorder as well as
The lawsuit seeks $1.35m in
damages for lost income, $1m in general and punitive
damages and a further $200,000 linked to the effects
on his mental health, according his lawyer. “It’s
not (supposed) to be a process where somebody is
left on ice for nine and a half years,” said Klym.
The Canadian government has
countered that Utah’s criminal history, which
included involvement in an Australian murder case
and fraud charges in Canada that were later
withdrawn, required officials to carry out a
comprehensive investigation before his application
could be considered.
According to Duncan McNab,
who documented Utah’s story in the book Dead Man
Running, Utah was never a full member of the
Bandidos, but knew the Australian national president
of the club, making him a valuable source of
information for authorities.
In 2000, McNab said Utah
arrived on the scene shortly after a 54-year-old man
had been killed by Bandidos members. According to
McNab, Utah helped dump the body some 1,000km away.
In 2004, Utah was charged
with the murder, but the charges were later dropped.
Utah later led investigators to the body of the man,
joining forces with police to infiltrate the
Bandidos network, said McNab.
In their statement of
defence, Canadian officials said it took them until
August 2009 to confirm that no further charges would
be laid against Utah in connection with the killing.
The process was again
delayed soon after, this time over multiple fraud
charges Utah was facing in Canada, according to
court documents. The charges were later withdrawn
after “restitution was paid”, the statement of
The Canadian government
argued that the years-long timeline was inevitable.
“Given the complexity of the plaintiff’s situation,
his claims that his life was at risk, and the
ongoing criminal investigations and charges and
previous criminal history their actions were
justified,” the statement of defence alleges.