The province is seeking forfeiture of properties, cash, jewelry, vehicles and Harley Davidson motorcycles valued at more than $4.8 million allegedly linked to drug trafficking and money laundering.
In a suit filed on Nov. 13 in B.C. Supreme Court, the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office claims that houses in Delta and Abbotsford, and commercial properties in Delta and Richmond, along with two vehicles, two motorcycles, jewelry valued at more than $70,000, and more than $190,000 in cash should be forfeited as proceeds of crime.
One of the Harley Davidson motorcycles had a “Support Your Local Hells Angels West Point” sticker affixed to it.
According to the suit, a Delta police investigation uncovered a trafficking ring dealing in cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamines, MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, illicit cannabis and psilocybin. Delta police also seized firearms, ammunition, body armour, money counters, cellphones and computers in executing several search warrants in August.
“The real property, money, jewelry, cellphones and vehicles are proceeds and instruments of unlawful activity,” said provincial government lawyer Michael Lawless in the claim on behalf of the forfeiture office.
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Named in the suit are Surrey resident Gill Thomas Rajpaul Bergen, Delta resident Norval Hume McLennan, Surrey resident Aleksandr Leonidovitch Shtraimish and Richmond resident Cole Chalmers Svensen.
Allegations listed in the forfeiture suit include drug trafficking, illicit cannabis sales, money laundering, possession of proceeds of crime and failure to declare taxable income. Other allegations include possession of body armour, various firearms offences and using vehicles with aftermarket, secret compartments.
Three other civil forfeiture suits were also filed Nov. 13 for two vehicles and a third Harley Davidson motorcycle, also allegedly linked to the drug-trafficking ring.
None of the accused has responded to the civil-forfeiture suits.
McLennan, Shtraimish and Svensen were each arrested by Delta police in August during the probe but haven’t been charged criminally, according to a search of online B.C. court records. Civil forfeiture actions can be launched without criminal charges being laid. The threshold for proving a civil forfeiture claim is lower than for a criminal conviction, a balance of probabilities instead of beyond-a-reasonable-doubt.
One of the houses sought for forfeiture, at 5282 Williams Ave. in Delta, is owned by McLennan. It’s valued at $1.535 million, according B.C. Assessment Authority records.
The forfeiture suit outlines that the Delta police investigation observed people conducting drug-trafficking activities after leaving the Williams’ property. That activity led them to other properties, including a commercial unit, No. 128 at 11951 Hammersmith Wy. in Richmond.
According to the forfeiture suit, in an Aug. 26 search of the Richmond property, Delta cops found cocaine, including a one-kilogram brick; more than 25 kg of dried cannabis; a freezer full of pot edibles; cannabis shatter; fentanyl; meth; psilocybin; nearly 400 MDMA pills; Oxycodone; and 750 Tramadol pills. Also found during that search were two safes containing nearly $150,000; another $33,000 in cash found in a desk and in envelopes; several firearms including handguns and a modified semi-automatic rifle; ammunition; a Taser; body armour; a money-counting machine; and cellphones.
In another commercial property, Unit 107 at 7063 Venture St. in Delta, Delta police found equipment used for producing and packing cocaine similar to that found at the unit at 11951 Hammersmith in Richmond, according to the forfeiture suit. Also found was a safe containing multiple engagement rings valued at more than $70,000.
The unit at 7063 Venture, valued at $616,100, is owned by a numbered company of which Gill is a director and president.
The unit at 11951 Hammersmith in Richmond, valued at $734,000, is owned by Ghanai Holdings Inc., whose directors aren’t named in the suit.