BC Circuit Court of Appeals Orders Seizure of 3 Hells Angels Clubhouses
British Columbia’s highest court has ordered the seizure of three Hells Angels clubhouses in the province after a year-long legal battle with the Outlaw motorcycle club.
On Wednesday, the BC Court of Appeal released its decision in the case between the province’s Director of Civil Forfeiture and Angel Acres Recreation and Festival Property Ltd.
A panel of three judges overturned a 2020 BC Supreme Court ruling. on that allowed the Hells Angels to keep their properties in Nanaimo, Kelowna and East Vancouver. Appeals bench judges ruled that the properties would likely be used for criminal activity in the future.
Judge Mary Newbury wrote that the lower court’s verdict was “tainted” in a number of ways, including failing to balance the Hells Angels’ efforts to avoid criminal exposure with demonstrated “preference for secrecy” and “preoccupation with rats and spies ‘ of the club. ‘
She noted that the trial judge did not consider evidence showing that Hells Angels members had a history of “committing serious crimes” or that the clubhouses provided “a safe space” to plan or commit crimes. The judgment states that the conclusion is “inevitable” that the properties will be used in the same way in the future.
Clubhouses are located at 805 Victoria Rd. in Nanaimo, 837 Ellis St. in Kelowna and 3598 E. Georgia St. in Vancouver.
The ruling directs Hells Angels members with an interest in the three clubhouses to pay the costs of the appeal and requires ownership of the province to be transferred, with monies from sales placed in the civil forfeiture account.
The BC Assessment website shows a total value of just over $3 million for the properties, which the decision describes as fenced and gated, with metal doors that open outward to deter forced entry, extensive security systems, and other measures to “prevent the police from secretly monitoring the activities of the Hells Angels.
Greg DelBigio, the attorney representing those associated with the Vancouver and Kelowna clubhouses, told The Canadian Press he had no comment on the Court of Appeals ruling or a possible appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Collection Office seized the Nanaimo clubhouse in 2007, followed by the Kelowna and Vancouver clubhouses in 2012.
In 2012, the Crown claimed the clubhouses in Kelowna and Vancouver’s East End had been linked to extortion, assault and even murder.
In 2013, the bikers filed a counterclaim against the Crown, challenging the seizure orders.
Civil rights attorney Joseph Arvay, who died in 2020, represented the Hells Angels in the past and said police were unable to prove the Angels are a criminal organization. He said that civil forfeiture is too often used as a substitute for court proceedings.
Arvay argued that the confiscations violated the club’s charter rights and the Angels won a then 13-year legal battle. The court dismissed the province’s lawsuits and ordered the return of the confiscated contents of the Nanaimo clubhouse.
The more than 300-paragraph Court of Appeals decision, released Feb. 15, says many members and associates of the East End, Kelowna and Nanaimo chapters had a history of serious crimes.
Wednesday’s decision was a win for the province, although the decision does not include a deadline for the properties to be handed over.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, the attorney general’s office said the BC government will introduce an inexplicable property order (UWO) law in the spring that could potentially be an effective tool for the Civil Forfeiture Office to “explain ill-gotten gains.” Funds to track assets tactically and more efficiently.”
A spokesman said the Director of Civil Forfeiture could not comment on specific cases related to the clubhouse seizure or on matters being heard in court.
“The procedure followed by the director for the seizure and sale of forfeited property will depend on the particular circumstances of each case,” the statement said.
Prime Minister David Eby said the ruling “confirms the direction” the province is taking against organized crime.
“I think this sends a strong message to criminal organizations under our existing civil forfeiture regime,” Eby said in Victoria.
The Court of Appeal’s decision can be read in full online.