The Canadian tech pioneer accused of stealing America’s culture

Investigative reporter Kristi L. Wong revisits a wild criminal story that shocked Canada — and may have helped turn Canada into a feminist country:

In 1980, Nogchu Gong and David Sidoo were two out-of-work software engineers. They’d been rebuffed by every employer they tried to go to for help, so they started their own business, a computer manufacturing firm called Chancy Computers. In retrospect, it wasn’t just any work: Chancy had made a name for itself on the Cowloon sex tape scene. But other factors fueled the company’s expansion.

Canada was a time of huge reinvestment into the middle class, and early tech companies were attracting investment of workers — Gong and Sidoo were part of a wave of Canadian investors moving to Silicon Valley in 1981.

The company was going well, but the 1980s was also a time of conspicuous consumption — Nogchu Gong’s office was at the Chancy café on Canadian retail strip commercial strip King West.

Gong had convinced his landlord, a real estate attorney named Louis Gentles, to rent out the business unit as an apartment and install a master bedroom for his children. Nogchu Gong had moved the company’s business offices down the road, into a building on King Street West, which he shared with his son, Timothy. The million-dollar investment was now worth over $1 million.

(The family did not respond to requests for comment.)

But Gong was having trouble connecting to the baby boomers who had rushed to join the Canadian middle class during the decade.

His relationship with his son had been strained because Timothy had never gone to college, and despite his role as a salesman at Chancy, Timothy was a bit of a geek — he spent time writing instructional manuals for his father’s business. Timothy’s decision to stay at home and raise their son under the watchful eye of his mother distracted Gong.

And with the rapid pace of change in the computer industry — just a few years after Nogchu Gong began giving fellow early Canadian investors the industry’s first lease on success, IBM opened the doors of an enormous corporate office, nearly doubling the number of software companies in Canada to 130 by 1985 — the young entrepreneur faced a heated industry war.

The Canadian government, uncomfortable with its space in the grand scheme of things, sought to bring the country’s tech sector into parity with the United States with new tax credits. That same year, the Canada Computer Technology Industry Association began an off-the-books fundraising campaign, dubbed “Give Me the Cube,” where founding members pledged a total of $200,000 to promote new computer manufacturing operations in Canada.

Gong told his wife he’d agree to pay for her membership to the CAITIA to stop Timothy from running off with another girl. But within a few months, Gong learned that many of those members had gone to customs with mysterious goods — digital equipment, electronic monitors, computers, projectors and television sets.

The arrival of these electronic cash cows in Changbei was trumpeted across the country as proof that the country’s computer industry was flourishing. But days after Computers, Inc. landed, the government reopened the case.

Critics speculated that all those product boxes had been brought in by Gong to help him keep tabs on his employees and possibly his employees’ spouses.

Looking at growth figures, however, the Ontario Provincial Police turned out to have fallen into suspicion themselves. The OPP hadn’t kept up with Gong, and by the end of his leadership, Chancy Computers had been robbed 23 times.

One location belonged to a friend who had been dealing a drug called “drona” — a concentrated form of cocaine.

In 1986, however, the Canadian Federal Police uncovered a rare case of corruption in the ranks of the Canadian Forces — a parade of Canadian officers turned security personnel had crossed into Laos for crack cocaine transactions. And a handful of these officers had cheated on retirement bonuses and sold their military uniforms on the black market.

Gong, meanwhile, continued to break the law. In 1989, he was convicted of forging invoices and pocketing $500,000 of $1 million that his son had received as part of a deferred tax deal with the Ontario government.

At the time, members of the Canadian military were still split on whether or not chatelaine pounsuka and antiphasic zikakaili rang a bell.

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