A Chinese court on Friday handed a life sentence to Lai Changxing, the head of a vast smuggling operation who spent 12 years on the run in Canada before being deported last year. Lai was found guilty of smuggling luxury cars and cigarettes worth billions of dollars and of bribing officials, in a case that brought down senior military and police figures and tested relations between China and Canada. The 53-year-old was sentenced at a court in southeast China’s Xiamen, the city from which he directed his sprawling criminal empire before fleeing the country, the official news agency Xinhua said. Once known as his country’s most wanted fugitive, Lai would likely have been sentenced to death under different circumstances. But in order to secure his extradition, China issued an unusual promise to the Canadian government not to execute him — a pledge it stuck to with his sentencing Friday. At least 14 death sentences were meted out to less important figures in the case when trials were held over a decade ago, bringing down national-level military and police officials and a swarm of local functionaries.