Saskatchewan appeal court upholds extradition of man charged in wind turbine sales fraud

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Jan. 9, 2018(Courtesy of – A Canadian man arrested in Saskatoon in 2016 after years on the lam lost his appeal of an extradition order to stand trial in the U.S  on fraud charges related to a failed wind turbine business that once attracted celebrity attention.

James Alan Rowan is now awaiting his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial on one count of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. Rowan spent about four years at large after he was indicted by a grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2013.

Rowan is accused of falsely advertising claims that his Ontario-based company, Enviro-Energies, had developed a roof-mounted wind turbine, and that he solicited investments based on this claim. Prosecutors in North Carolina allege Rowan knew the turbines’ output was nowhere near what Enviro-Energies claimed it would be.

The Mag-Wind turbine, as it was marketed, got the endorsement of Hollywood celebrities, such as former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, and actor Ed Begley, Jr.

The U.S. requested a committal for extradition from the Attorney General of Canada following the indictment and included a record of the case saying nine people would testify against him, six of whom said they dealt with Enviro-Energies.

A Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench judge approved the extradition order in August 2017, and the appeal was heard last May.

Justice Georgina Jackson, in her written decision on Dec. 31, 2018, allowed Rowan to submit fresh evidence on appeal, but found the evidence was insufficient and dismissed the appeal. The appeal court denied his request for a judicial review of the lower court’s decision on his extradition. Jackson ordered him to surrender himself to RCMP custody by Jan. 2.

Rowan had argued that the Queen’s Bench judge’s summary of the record of the case was unreliable because it didn’t “canvas all of the relevant exemptions that could apply.” The accusation was that investors received nothing for their investments, but he argued there were legal exemptions regarding the issuance of shares. Jackson wrote that such exemptions wouldn’t affect the allegations at the heart of the case.

“While Mr. Rowan challenges this conclusion, and asserts that the committal order is not supported by the evidence, there is sufficient evidence in the record of the case to support the extradition judge’s conclusion. Mr. Rowan’s argument regarding sufficiency of the evidence misconstrues the power of an appellate court reviewing a committal order,” Jackson wrote.

She found that the decision of the extradition judge, Justice Gerald Allbright, was supported by the evidence.

Rowan also argued that the delay in the process on the part of American authorities — that he would stand trial for alleged fraud that happened more than a decade ago — was unjust and oppressive. He further claimed that a trial in the U.S. would be prejudiced against him because documents available to him for his defence previously would not be available now.

In response, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould wrote in the surrender reasons that Rowan didn’t provide “any specific evidence to suggest that the delay was the result of bad faith or an improper motive on the part of United States authorities. I am satisfied that there is nothing in this case that suggests that United States authorities have acted in bad faith.”

On the issue of the delay prejudicing his case, Wilson-Raybould considered Rowan’s claim but dismissed it, Jackson wrote. Wilson-Raybould felt Rowan could raise the issue at the trial phase.

Similarly, she felt the trial stage was the “proper forum for Mr. Rowan to attack the sufficiency of the evidence against him,” Jackson also noted in her written decision.

Jackson found no reviewable errors to consider and subsequently dismissed the application for judicial review.

Rowan now sits in a Saskatchewan jail after turning himself in to RCMP custody as ordered. His case came before the courts in Saskatchewan because he was living in the province at the time of his arrest.

The RCMP tracked Rowan to Saskatoon, where he spent time between two addresses, including his parents’ home. While Rowan was wanted by the FBI, he worked as a Statistics Canada field interviewer, the RCMP learned through a Privacy Act request.