February 09, 2016 - 4:30 PM
KELOWNA - Three Hells Angels clubhouses, including the one on Ellis Street in Kelowna, will stay in custody of the province until 2017 after an application to set aside a court order was dismissed.
The clubhouse was seized by provincial authorities in 2012 along with the Vancouver East End clubhouse and a building in Nanaimo that was seized since 2007 as an instrument of unlawful activity when a “Project Halo” search warrant found guns, drugs and an illegal bar inside.
The Hells Angels have been fighting in court to have them returned ever since 2012 when the Director of Civil Forfeiture signed an order taking away the clubhouses until trial, now scheduled for 2017. In the order, the director references a 2003 search warrant in Nanaimo where police found two “commercial style” bars with stock rooms of liquor, several improperly stored shotguns and a pistol.
Police also noted that the Victoria Road Property had been specifically modified and fortified and had signs marking it as a Hell’s Angels clubhouse. In 2012 the Kelowna and Vancouver East End clubhouses were added to the order and last week a Supreme Court Justice dismissed an appeal to overturn the order.
In his Feb. 3 judgement, Justice Barry Davies called all Hells Angels clubhouses “safe havens” where members plan and commit crimes, the most lucrative being drug trafficking.
He quotes Ontario police detective Const. Mark Loader who says clubhouses are traditionally used to plan activities in secret.
“Members will often “walk and talk” to protect their communication from being overheard and/or intercepted by police. In some instances, members are not permitted to bring cellular telephones and/or pagers inside the clubhouse during meetings. Also, in some cases, if a question arises, it may be presented on a chalkboard that is later erased or paper that is later burned. The degree of secrecy over their communications leads me to infer that criminal activities are discussed in the clubhouses. These discussions may center around the promotion of criminal activity or the development of ideas or strategy that enables the commission of criminal activities,” Loader testified.
“Clubhouses can be fortified with steel plates, bullet-proof windows, electronic door openers, steel gates and infrared motion detectors and additional concrete walls. Some clubhouses are under membership surveillance twenty-four hours a day. This is called “the watch”. A clubhouse that existed for simply social purposes would not require this level and sophistication of security and would not make such an effort to avoid having their activities detected by the police.”
The Kelowna clubhouse appears from the outside to have similar security including high brick fences, security gate and surveillance system.
Davies says the litigation, which has been ongoing since 2007 has been slowed by appeals and amendments to the claim.
“I am satisfied the evidence filed in support of the order is more than sufficient to establish reasonable grounds to believe that the property is being used as an instrument of unlawful activity,” Davies writes. “That unlawful activity includes the planning of criminal activities, the assault of victims in secrecy, and the storage of illegal weapons and controlled substances. That evidence is not made either irrelevant or inadmissible because of the changes to the pleadings.”
A trial is scheduled for May 2017.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016