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B.C. moves to seize Hells Angels clubhouses in Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kelowna

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British Columbia's civil forfeiture office moved Friday to seize assets belonging to the Hells Angels, including three clubhouses in Nanaimo, Vancouver and Kelowna.

A spokesperson for B.C.'s anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said its officers would attend the clubhouses to keep the peace alongside local police while the civil forfeiture agency took control of the properties.

Mike Farnworth, the province's public safety minister and solicitor-general, said he was "extremely pleased" with the seizures underway Friday, saying the actions "send a very strong message that crime doesn’t pay."

"As we've known for a long time, the Hells Angels is a criminal organization," Farnworth told CTV News in an interview.

"It doesn't matter if it's a clubhouse or other asset – a high-value car or high-value boat – if it's been obtained through organized crime, they're going to lose it."  

In February, B.C.'s highest court ruled the province could seize the clubhouses because the bikers would likely keep using the properties to plan or commit illegal activities.

The B.C. Court of Appeal decision overturned a 2020 ruling in B.C. Supreme Court that allowed the biker gang to retain ownership of the properties because the forfeiture office failed to prove they would be used to commit crimes.

The unanimous ruling from the three-member appellate court found the lower court's decision was "tainted" in several ways, including its failure to link the club's "penchant for secrecy" and "preoccupation with rats and snitches" with its efforts to hide criminal activity.

The panel wrote the clubhouses provided a "safe space" for the planning and commission of crimes, and found it "inescapable that the clubhouses were likely to be used in the future as they had been in the past: to enhance and facilitate their members’ ability to commit unlawful acts."

A sign outside the Hells Angels clubhouse on Victoria Road in Nanaimo on April 14, 2023. (CTV News)

B.C. Premier David Eby told reporters the ruling "confirms the direction" the province is taking on organized crime, saying the decision "sends a strong message under our existing civil forfeiture regime to criminal organizations."

The court battle began after Mounties raided the gang's Nanaimo clubhouse in 2007 and the province's civil forfeiture office initiated proceedings to seize the property and its contents.

The seizure was later broadened to include clubhouses in East Vancouver and Kelowna.

The Hells Angels clubhouse on Victoria Road in Nanaimo on Friday, April 14, 2023. (CTV News)

PROPERTIES VALUED AT $3 MILLION

The Hells Angels filed a counterclaim and successfully challenged the constitutionality of B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Act as it relates to future criminality.

The B.C. Supreme Court dismissed the claims of the director of civil forfeiture in 2020 and ordered the properties returned to the Hells Angels.

The B.C. attorney general and the director of civil forfeiture appealed that decision last year, ending with the B.C. high court's reversal of the decision.

The three clubhouses – located at 805 Victoria Rd. in Nanaimo, 3598 E. Georgia St. in Vancouver and 837 Ellis Street in Kelowna – are collectively valued at more than $3 million, according to the B.C. Assessment office.

The province will now examine "what is the best use in the public interest" of the seized properties, the solicitor-general said.

Rick Ciarniello, a Hells Angels B.C. spokesperson, did not respond to a request for comment. 

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