Australian police informant targeted by biker gang granted refugee status in Canada
Man who infiltrated the Bandidos believed to be 1st Australian given refugee status by a foreign country
An Australian investigative journalist has praised the Canadian government for granting refugee status to a man who infiltrated the Bandidos motorcycle gang in his country.
Stevan Utah, a former police informant who fled Australia in 2006 after he was allegedly beaten by bikers and left for dead, was granted asylum in Canada on Sept. 29, 2017, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed in an exclusive report.
"I always believed Steve would get refugee status in the end because he is a genuine case of an appalling injustice meted out to a person who risked his life as a police informant to try and help penetrate a biker gang," Ross Coulthart, who co-wrote a book about Utah called Dead Man Running, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.
"It's just wonderful, though, that Canada has seen fit to recognize what we've all accepted for a long time as the truth."
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The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada would not confirm or comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.
But according the IRBC ruling obtained by ABC, Canada found Utah's allegations that Australian authorities blew his cover and failed to protect him to be credible.
Coulthart said he's still in contact with Utah, after interviewing him extensively for his book. The refugee is now living in a "remote" part of Canada under a pseudonym, he said.
As It Happens is trying to reach Utah for comment through Coulthart.
In a statement to ABC, Utah said: "What was done to me years ago is not the cause of current serving members of policing agencies … nor did the sitting government do this to me. But the institutions they currently serve most certainly did."
Australian National University international law expert Matthew Zagor told ABC the case is unprecedented and, as far as he can tell, the first time an Australian has been granted refugee status in a foreign country.
Outed as an informant in a press release
Utah is a former soldier who befriended high-ranking members of the Bandidos while working as a wildlife smuggler.
During his time as a gang "associate," he claims to have witnessed horrific violence, including the murder of 54-year-old Earl Mooring.
All the while, he was working as a paid informant for the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), and he led authorities to Mooring's body in 2004.
Utah was briefly charged with Mooring's death, but those charges were later dropped, reports the Age newspaper.
In 2006, the ACC issued a press release revealing they had an informant inside the gang.
Suspicion immediately fell upon Utah, Coulthart said.
"He was taken to a farm behind the Sunshine Coast in Brisbane and he was brutally beaten, left for dead, and while they went away to get a shovel to bury him, he actually managed to revive himself, stood up, ran into the jungle and fled," Coulthart said.
"And he kept on running. He kept on running and running and running until he got to Canada and he's stayed there ever since."
As It Happens has reached out to the ACC, which has since been renamed the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, for comment.
'He will always be looking over his shoulder'
Despite being granted safe haven in Canada, Coulthart said Utah will likely never feel safe. The Bandidos have chapters around the world, including in Canada.
"He knows that there is and there always will be a contract out his life," Coulthart said.
"I think the reality is, and as he said to me in his interview, he will always be looking over his shoulder. He is a dead man running."
Nevertheless, Coulthart said he gives "all credit" to the Canadian government for approving Utah's asylum claim.
"It sends a message to criminal informants that they will be remembered, that they won't be deserted like Utah was," he said.
"Utah stuck his neck out. He didn't have to do what he did. He put his life on the line to protect his country from a dreadful and insidious evil ... and for his trouble, he was sent to the slaughter house. They turned their back on him."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Ross Coulthart produced by Chris Harbord.
- Correction: A previous version of this story attributed quotes to Duncan McNac, a former detective and co-author of the book Dead Man Running. In fact, it was his co-author, journalist Ross Coulthart, who spoke with As It Happens.