B.C. suspects face organized crime charges

For the first time, the RCMP in B.C have used a new law to lay organized crime charges against members of the Hells Angels biker gang following Friday's massive raid that led to the arrest of 17 people.

For the first time in British Columbia, justice officials have used a new law to lay organized crime charges against alleged members of the Hells Angels biker gang.

RCMP confirmed Monday that a total of 17 bikers have been arrested on drug and weapons charges following a massive series of raids on Hells Angels clubhouses in the Vancouver area on Friday.

In addition, members and associates of the outlaw motorcycle gang also face separate charges under Section 467 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Those charges relate to crimes people commit while acting as part of a criminal organization.

This means that a suspect convicted of a drug or weapon offence could be sentenced to serve additional prison time if it can be proven that the crime was committed in association with a criminal organization.

Investigative journalist Julian Sher, who has documented the Hells Angels in Canada, said the arrests are significant.

"In effect, they're going to be putting the Hells Angels on trial, and that's a huge blow to a club that's always said, 'We're just a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts.'"

However, any trials stemming from the charges could take years to make their way through the legal system, especially if criminal organization provisions in the Criminal Code are challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada as unconstitutional.

The B.C. arrests and charges were the culmination of a 23-month investigation dubbed Project E-Pandora.

During Friday's raids, investigators seized more than 250 kilograms of methylamine, 20 kilograms of methamphetamine, 20 kilograms of cocaine and 70 kilograms of marijuana.

As well, police found $200,000 Cdn and a number of weapons including hand guns, fully automatic weapons, silencers, 11 sticks of dynamite with detonation cord and blasting caps, four grenades and an assortment of ammunition.

Most of the 17 suspects were arrested during the raids. Two more people turned themselves in to police on Monday morning.

Police said an 18th man who has been charged remains at large. Kerry Ryan Renaud, 25, is considered armed and dangerous.