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Travelling now a potential ticket to trouble: Botting

published September 30, 2019

“We took it for granted in the decades after the Second World War, more specifically after the Cold War, that travelling globally was completely safe,” says Botting, principal of Gary N.A. Botting, Barrister and Solicitor. “We have a blasé attitude toward it, believing we will be fine wherever we go, but we’re not.”

As an example of the danger of going abroad, he points to a case of a Canadian man serving a 10-year sentence in Cuba.

The man partied with a group of Cuban nationals at a nightclub near the resort town of Varadero, then went with them to a private home, The Canadian Press reports. He says he fell asleep there, and when he awoke the next day, his phone and money were gone.

He returned to Cuba the following year and was arrested at the airport, charged with having sex with an underage girl at the house the year before, the story states. The man maintains he never engaged in sex with anyone that night, and that the female was unable to identify him as her assailant in court, yet he was found guilty and handed a decade-long sentence.

“With countries such as Cuba, the fact is we can’t trust its justice system to be fair,” says Botting. “If you are going there, it will be at your own peril.”

He advises travellers to always be very aware of their surroundings in foreign countries and to only stay at reputable hotels with good security records.

“You will pay a little extra, but it is certainly worth it,” Botting says.

Here in Canada, he says the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport shows that visitors to our shores also have to be cautious.

“Because she is the spokesperson for a huge Chinese corporation that the United States believes is involved in espionage, the Americans issued a warrant for her arrest.

Now we are complicit in sending her across the border to face ‘justice,’ even though allegations that Huawei technology is being used for nefarious purposes have not been substantiated, Botting says.

He says he was involved in a similar case, representing a man who ran a small business in Central Asia, who was working on behalf of a much larger firm on a pipeline project running from his country to another Asian nation. When the man stopped in Canada, he was arrested and extradited to the United States to face charges related to bribes given to Asian officials, Botting says.

Though the man was only a minor player in the project and not involved with the bribes, he says his client pleaded guilty to avoid a lengthy sentence — though he still went to jail — whereas the executives at the large Western firm walked away with a slap on the wrist.

“That firm budgeted for millions of dollars in bribe money, as that’s the way business was done in that part of the world,” says Botting. “We can’t apply Western values to other countries.”

Botting says Canadians visiting the United States should also be careful, as drug smugglers have been known to befriend Canadians and convince them to bring suitcases or other items across the border for them.

“Be careful who you hang out with down there, and be sure you know what is in any bags you bring across the border,” he says.

Botting recalls working as a journalist early in his career and travelling internationally without giving his safety much thought.

“As a journalist, you assumed you were safe and that no one would bother you,” he says. “But now, no one can let their guard down when they travel.”