The province’s Civil Forfeiture Office is trying to seize two Abbotsford properties that it says were the sites of large-scale illegal cannabis grow operations.
The province claims that the owners of the properties at 248 Bradner Rd. and 679 Marion Rd. benefitted from the proceeds of crime.
An apartment building at 209 Heatley Ave. in Vancouver is also named in the lawsuit.
The notice of civil claim, filed Jan. 22 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, states that the property owners were the subject of an investigation that began in April 2020 by the Calgary Police Service.
The investigation looked into illicit cannabis sales through the website budexpressnow.com in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, the lawsuit indicates.
A team of officers was dispatched to execute search warrants at the Abbotsford properties on Nov. 17 and 18, 2020.
The court documents state that the Marion Road property was found to contain two separate cannabis grow operations, and renovations were underway to increase the capacity.
Investigators seized more than 13,000 cannabis plants, 7.7 kilograms of packaged cannabis, grow equipment and calendars with grow schedules, the lawsuit states.
The documents indicate that the property was authorized by Health Canada to grow just under 1,600 plants.
The Bradner Road property included a home under construction and a large barn.
Investigators seized numerous items, including almost 5,000 cannabis plants, 546 kilograms of packaged cannabis, 1,620 kg of “shake” (a cannabis product), 10.2 kg of “shatter,” 250 kg of “keef,” 2,853 syringes of cannabis oil, 30 kg of hash, grow equipment and packaging material.
The Bradner property was authorized by Health Canada to grow 3,454 plants.
The documents state that people were employed at both properties to tend to the plants and to do the harvesting, preparing and packaging of the products, with some workers at the Bradner site being illegal immigrants.
The products were sold over the budexpress.com website and other means, with the proceeds of the sales “transferred through various transactions to bank accounts in Alberta and Ontario,” the documents state.
The lawsuit says that those proceeds were then transferred to defendants Laurice Lam, owner of the Bradner property, and to Ramesh Hansraj and Purnima Devi Hansraj, owners of the Marion Road property.
That money was used to pay their mortgages, electricity costs and other expenses, the lawsuit claims.
Parasato Momeni is the president and sole officer of Heatley Avenue Holdings, which owns the Vancouver apartment building.
The lawsuit states that money transfers totalling $109,000 “from the unlawful proceeds” were made to Momeni or Heatley Avenue Holdings towards the mortgage of the apartment building.
“The properties are instruments of unlawful activity because they were used, or are likely to be used, to engage in the unlawful activity,” the court documents state.
According to BC Assessment, the Marion Road property is valued at $1.28 million, and the Bradner Road site is valued at almost $2 million. The Vancouver property is valued at $2.067 million.
B.C.’s civil forfeiture office can initiate civil court proceedings to take away property such as vehicles, cash and homes that are believed to have been used in unlawful activity or purchased from the proceeds of such activity. Criminal charges do not have to be laid first against the individuals.