Article by Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun
The province is seeking to have forfeited three properties linked to an alleged illicit Abbotsford cannabis operation uncovered by a 2020 Calgary police investigation that resulted in the seizure of 2.5 tonnes of cannabis.
The three properties — two farms in Abbotsford and a Vancouver Downtown Eastside property — are valued at $4.25 million in total, according to B.C. Assessment Authority records.
In an application in B.C. Supreme Court filed Jan. 22, the B.C. Forfeiture Office says the three properties “are proceeds of crime.”
Named in the forfeiture claim are Abbotsford residents Laurice Lam, Ramesh Hansraj and Purnima Devi Hansraj, and Vancouver resident Parasto Momeni.
“All or some of the portion of the defendants’ interest in the properties are proceeds of unlawful activity because it was acquired in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from the unlawful activity,” states the forfeiture claim.
The accusations listed in the forfeiture claim include illicit production, possession and sale of cannabis, as well as possession for the purpose of trafficking. The defendants are also accused of money laundering and failure to declare taxable income.
None of the defendants has responded to the civil claim in court and they have not been charged criminally, according to a search of online B.C. court records.
The Calgary Police Service said Wednesday the investigation is active and no details could be released. “Investigators are reviewing a significant amount of evidence and more details will be released once charges are laid,” Calgary police spokeswoman Amy Castonguay said in a written statement.
Criminal charges are not necessary for the province of B.C. to launch a civil forfeiture suit. 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.
The civil forfeiture office’s claim outlines findings of a Calgary police investigation into the alleged illicit sale of cannabis through the website budexpressnow.com and related financial transactions in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.
As part of its investigation, Calgary police sent a team of officers to execute search warrants with the help of local police agencies on the Abbotsford properties on Nov. 17 and 18, 2020.
A property at 619 Marion Rd. in Abbotsford, owned by Ramesh and Purnima Hansraj, is a farm with multiple outbuildings where police found two separate cannabis grow operations, according to the forfeiture claim.
At the property, police found 13,136 plants, 7.7 kilograms of packaged cannabis, and “sophisticated commercial-grade” cannabis-growing equipment.
A property searched at 248 Bradner Rd. in Abbotsford, owned by Lam, included a home under construction and a large barn.
Police found 4,790 cannabis plants at the property, according to the forfeiture claim.
Police also found 546 kilograms of packaged cannabis and 1,950 kilograms of cannabis in other forms. That included 1,620 kilograms of shake, 10.2 kilograms of shatter, 250 kilograms of keef, 30 kilograms of hash, 7.5 kilograms of wax, and 32.8 kilograms of cannabis oil.
All the cannabis and plants were seized.
The barn on the Bradner property contained a closed-circuit television system with multiple interior cameras, a drug lab used for production of cannabis-related products, and an attached living quarters for workers, according to the forfeiture claim.
People were employed at both properties to tend, harvest, prepare and package cannabis products, states the claim.