Man in hiding from bikies still fears for life
An Australian bikie informant who fled the country after being almost beaten to death has spoken from his Canadian hiding place and revealed he still faces threats to his life.
The former Bandidos associate Stevan Utah spoke exclusively to NCA NewsWire after learning this week he lost a bid to sue the Canadian government for slow-walking his asylum application.
Mr Utah was embedded in the Bandidos motorcycle club in Queensland in the 2000s, feeding the Australian government information about serious crimes before his identity was exposed in 2006.
He fled to Canada and lodged his application for asylum the following year.
In 2017, the application was finally granted, in a landmark case that found Australian authorities failed to protect his life, making him the first known refugee to flee Australia.
Although he won his asylum claim, Mr Utah sued the Canadian government in 2018 for delaying its decision by a decade.
Two days before the new year began, that lawsuit failed, according to a decision by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals made public this week.
The appeals court found Mr Utah had launched his legal action too late and overturned an earlier decision by the Federal Court that had agreed with the Aussie on the question of whether he sued in a timely manner.
According to the new ruling, Mr Utah had two years to sue beginning in early 2016 when an immigration officer informed him there were problems with his application.
Mr Utah argued he only found out about those problems in 2018, the year after it had been granted.
Discussing the two-year limit, Justice David Stratas wrote on behalf of the court: "Harsh the policy might be.
"But judges - even the most experienced ones we have - cannot meddle with it or refuse to enforce it unless the legislation enacting it is unconstitutional."
Mr Utah vowed to continue his legal quest.
"We will be appealing to the Supreme Court within the next 60 days due to the overreaching and rhetorical analysis delivered by Justice Stratas," he told NCA NewsWire.
He said the immigration experience left him feeling alienated. Despite living in Canada for almost 15 years, the country still doesn't feel at home.
"No, not even close," he said.
"I am always alone. To put it into perspective, people talked about isolation of lockdowns and so forth with COVID-19. I actually didn't notice a single change to my life with COVID. Welcome to my world."
Mr Utah was a former soldier who grew up in Victoria and got acquainted with a high-level Bandidos boss in the mid-1990s, according to Duncan McNab, who co-authored a book about the man in 2008.
Mr Utah was present at the 2000 murder of a 54-year-old man, and four years later led police to the body, Mr McNab said.
He went on to become an informant for the Australian Crime Commission until a 2006 newspaper story up-ended the arrangement.
The article revealed the agency was conducting an intelligence operation into outlaw motorcycle gangs, a piece of information that led bikies to suspect Mr Utah.
Having been exposed, he was taken to a spot in the Queensland bush, surrounded by bikies and mercilessly beaten, Mr McNab said.
But Mr Utah managed to run away and hide from the gang, and eventually made his way to Canada.
"He was bloody lucky to get away with his life," said Mr McNab, who gave evidence during Mr Utah's asylum hearing and now works as a media advisor for the NSW government.
Between filing his asylum claim in 2007 and being granted refugee status in 2017, Mr Utah lived in a kind of limbo in Canada, unable to receive health care, work, or open a bank account.
As a result, he developed post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, he alleged in his lawsuit.
Asked what his life had been like since he arrived, Mr Utah said he appreciated the people he had gotten to know in his new country.
"Canada and its people are big hearted and honest humans," he said.
"You should be asking them what their lives have been like with me around."
He told NCA NewsWire he understood there were still threats to his life.
Speaking of the day he escaped from the bikie bashing, Mr Utah said: "I wish I had died that day.
"I was truly an expendable human at that time and no one would have missed me. Now I am about learning, about reflection and about changing what we can for a better tomorrow based on yesterday's lessons."
Originally published as Man in hiding from bikies still fears for life