Fake drug boss testifies

UPDATE: 4:35 p.m.

An undercover RCMP officer who played the role of a South American crime boss spent several months in 2012 convincing a Kelowna Hells Angel he would deliver 200 kilograms of cocaine in return for $4 million. 

During the first of their several meetings, on March 11, 2012 in the back of a restaurant in Panama City, David Giles told the officer he was a member of the Canadian Hells Angels and showed off his several Hells Angels tattoos, according to the officer, whose name is protected under a publication ban.

The officer says Giles told him he planned to become the cocaine distributor for his organization, because the cocaine they had been getting from the U.S. was too expensive and of a lesser quality.

When the officer expressed concerns that Giles wouldn't be able to distribute the large amount of drugs himself, Giles arranged a meeting with two B.C.-based Hells Angels members to show he had the backing of the rest of the gang, who Giles referred to as his "brothers" and his "family."

The testimony is part of the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office's case to seize three Hells Angels clubhouses, in Kelowna, Nanaimo and East Vancouver, on the basis they will be used to commit future crimes.

The 2012 sting operation led to the conviction of Giles for conspiracy to import cocaine, along with a trafficking conviction of fellow Hells Angel Bryan Oldham.

Giles was sentenced to 18 years in jail last April, but died in prison just three months after he was sentenced.

The officer's testimony, which will continue Tuesday, is the first of 10 witnesses the government will bring forward in an attempt to show the clubhouses will be used to commit crimes in the future.

Defence in the case is expected to argue that the Civil Forfeiture Act, which became law in 2005, is unconstitutional.

The trial, which has taken more than a decade to get to court, is scheduled to take just under five weeks.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m.

The Hells Angels is an “extraordinarily sophisticated organization” that uses its brand to intimidate others for financial gain according to the government’s lawyer at the start of a civil forfeiture trial that's more than a decade in the making.

The case against the motorcycle gang's clubhouses in Kelowna, East Vancouver and Nanaimo began in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday morning.

In his opening statement, Brent Olthuis, counsel for the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office, said one of the main activities of the Hells Angels is the “facilitation of the commission of serious offences” and the use of the three clubhouses are exclusively used by Hells Angels members.

“If these properties remain held on behalf of these chapters of the Hells Angels, they are likely to be used by the members to engage in unlawful activities,” Olthuis said.

He said the notorious motorcycle club, while attempting to pass itself off as a “group of men united by a love of motorcycles,” has cultivated its “brand” for intimidation purposes.

“The world, national, regional and local structure of the Hells Angels provides, and is intended to provide, it's deliberate, a brand that its members, acting alone or acting in concert, can monetize through criminal means,” Olthuis said.

Despite this, the Crown has never convicted the club on any criminal organization charges.

The trial, scheduled for just under five weeks, will see the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office call 10 witnesses to speak to the criminal history of the Hells Angels, including several current and retired police officers who have investigated criminal activity at all three clubhouses in the past.

An undercover officer who played the role of a South American crime boss in a 2012 sting operation that led to the conviction of two Kelowna Hells Angels members and three associates is expected to testify Monday afternoon.

ORIGINAL: 5 a.m.

More than 10 years after the government began its attempts to seize a Hells Angels clubhouse in Nanaimo, and six years after similar proceedings began against clubhouses in Kelowna and Vancouver, the trial begins Monday morning.

The Kelowna property, located at 837 Ellis Street, has been raided by police several times in recent years, including once in August 2012. The province began its civil forfeiture proceedings against the property several months later. More recently, the clubhouse was raided again in October 2016.

The civil forfeiture case against the three properties has seen no less than five revisions since the original proceedings began in 2007.

In a 2014 decision, Justice Barry Davies called the series of pretrial applications on the file “never-ending."

While the B.C. Civil Forfeiture office originally planned to argue the clubhouses were proceeds of crime and had been used in the past as “instruments of unlawful activity,” it has since abandoned these arguments.

Instead, beginning Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, the office will argue the clubhouses will be used in the future to break the law.

Lawyers for the Hells Angels are expected to argue the Civil Forfeiture Act, which became law in 2005, is unconstitutional.

While a criminal case requires the evidence to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, a civil case, like Monday's civil forfeiture case, must only be decided on the balance of probability.

While the clubhouses have remained in use by the Hells Angels since the forfeiture litigation began, the assets have been frozen since 2016.

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