British Columbia

Pair claims they didn't know mansion was being used as illegal gambling den

The alleged owners of a Richmond mansion allegedly used as an illegal gambling den are denying all claims and point out that, despite police investigations, they are not charged with any crimes.

'The property is not an instrument of unlawful activity,' says defendant

This mansion at 8880 Sidaway Road in Richmond B.C. is the focal point of a forfeiture case in B.C., where the Ministry of Justice is trying to have the property forfeited to the province, based on alleged criminal activity of the owners.

The alleged owners of a Richmond mansion used as an illegal gambling den are denying all claims and point out that, despite police investigations, they are not charged with any crimes.

A Richmond man and an Ontario woman named in a civil forfeiture case deny they knew anything about a luxurious $4.9-million mansion being used for illegal gambling den.

Earlier this year provincial authorities launched a civil forfeiture action claiming at least one person was beaten and forcibly confined at the sprawling mansion that served as an illegal casino.

The case, filed in B.C. Supreme Court on June 29, outlines evidence found during police searches of the property after anonymous tips, and includes reports of two people showing up injured at Richmond Hospital.

The director of civil forfeiture alleged that the two defendants named were a brother and sister who co-owned the 13,000-square-foot property together. 

In the provincial forfeiture office's initial notice of a civil claim, authorities suggest that the man was the true owner and his sister acted as a nominee or "owner of convenience" on behalf of her brother.

But the woman named in the action says the man who was found acting as caretaker at her investment property is not a relative.

No knowledge of criminal activity

She says she knew nothing of illegal activity on the property, which was leased to the Vancouver International Chinese Association for two years.

Her understanding was that the business association would use it for meetings and functions.

In May 2016 she said she listed it for sale, and had a friend's husband check on it.

"The defendant had no reason to believe that illegal activity was occurring on the property," according to defence documents filed in October.

But the forfeiture case filings from the province describe a series of events that suggest the home was the site of an illegal casino.

House connected to stabbing

In April 2016, RCMP say they got a tip that someone was being held hostage at the address.

A search of the sprawling home revealed 15 people gambling, gaming tables, casino chips, playing cards, a money counter and an elaborate video surveillance system, according to the civil action.

A year later, RCMP were called again when a person showed up at Richmond General Hospital after allegedly being stabbed at the same property. 

A search on May 25 found 25 people drinking and dancing, covered gaming tables and blood-soaked towels in the kitchen garbage can.

During that search, police said they noted hundreds of liquor bottles — but no personal items, such as books, clothing, mail or bills in the house.

A search revealed 15 people gambling and other evidence: gaming tables, a large amount of casino chips, playing cards, a money counter and an elaborate video surveillance system, according to the civil forfeiture action. (The Associated Press)

Then on June 13, another person showed up at Richmond General Hospital with a broken arm and nose.

The injured person said they'd been kidnapped and forcibly confined, then assaulted with a metal bar or pipe by the man named as a defendant.

But he denies "unlawful activity" at the mansion, or any part in its ownership.

A search the next day turned up the bloody bar suspected to have been used in beating the person who showed up at hospital, according to the civil action.

The department of justice's civil forfeiture office is asking the court to order the property sold — and the proceeds be forfeited as "fruits or proceeds" of alleged crimes at the rural Richmond estate.

But the defendants claim no knowledge of any crimes — and argue the searches were illegal.

In a statement of defence, the man claims that "the property is not an instrument of unlawful activity," and notes that despite an investigation by the RCMP and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU), no criminal charges have been laid.

The RCMP, CFSEU and the forfeiture office either refused or did not reply to interview requests as the case is ongoing in court. None of the allegations has been proven.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca

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